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How to Enroll in the Best Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program Near New River Arizona

New River Arizona woman paralegal speaking with client on cellphoneCongratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near New River AZ and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. However, it's crucial that you find the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students start by searching for schools within commuting range of their New River homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program should be considered also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.

Paralegals and Legal Assistants

New River Arizona legal library

Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist New River AZ attorneys with a wide range of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but some of their daily tasks may involve:

  • Researching and fact checking cases
  • Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
  • Drafting correspondence and legal documents
  • Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
  • Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
  • Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records

With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.

Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification

New River Arizona male legal assistant speaking on phone writing notes

As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a paralegal in New River AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can take just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be earned at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.

Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Certificates and Degrees

New River Arizona woman student attending online paralegal coursesLegal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more available and may be a good alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to New River AZ students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.

Points to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs

Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the New River AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial issues to think about as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.

Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous New River AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited programs.

What's the Reputation of the School? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to 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 pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several New River AZ law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.

Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the New River AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.

Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent 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 Located? Considering that laws differ among states, it may be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to build relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to first investigate those schools that are within the New River AZ region.

How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be accessible to help offset some of the cost, so be sure to contact the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in New River AZ. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, some of these added expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.

Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near New River AZ, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you select provides that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making-up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.

Find Out More About New River Paralegal Schools

Choose the Right New River Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program

Enrolling in the ideal paralegal studies degree school is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your New River residence. Paralegal training programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Various types of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you decide to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to assess each program and make your final selection. And with the appropriate training you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in New River Arizona.


 

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