How to Find the Right Paralegal Studies Course Near New River Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near New River AZ and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it's important that you locate the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students start by searching for schools within driving distance of their New River residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program must be taken into consideration as well. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your selection. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help New River AZ attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but some of their day-to-day activities can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in New River AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can require just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded certifying agencies in the profession are:
- National Federation of Paralegal Associations
- American Alliance of Paralegals
- National Association of Legal Assistants
- National Association for Legal Professionals
By graduating with a paralegal degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Classes
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more common and can be an excellent option for students looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to New River AZ students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the New River AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical factors to think about as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of New River AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several New River AZ law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to begin developing contacts within the New River AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Since laws vary from state to state, it might be beneficial to choose a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. Also, it will be important to create relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to first look at those colleges that are within the New River AZ area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential earned and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help reduce part of the cost, so don't forget to check with the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in New River AZ. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near New River AZ, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you select offers that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best New River Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the right legal assistant certificate school is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your New River home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Several kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you decide to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to assess each school and make your final decision. And with the right education you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in New River Arizona.