How to Find the Best Paralegal Certificate Program Near New River Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near New River AZ and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it's important that you locate the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students begin by looking for schools within driving range of their New River homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you ought to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program must be considered too. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help New River AZ attorneys with a wide range of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular 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 help with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is usually billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their routine tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in New River AZ is by earning a certificate, which can take as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some 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 address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Certificates and Degrees
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more common and can be an excellent alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to New River AZ students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the right option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the New River AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial issues to consider as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive 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 have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education 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 what schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the New River AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ from one state to another, it might be a good idea to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to create relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to initially look at those schools that are within the New River AZ area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be accessible to help minimize part of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in New River AZ. Of course if you opt to attend an online program, some of these additional 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 receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near New River AZ, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you select makes available that option. Last, find out what the process is for making-up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right New River Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the right paralegal studies certificate school is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, 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 training programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you choose to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to examine each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal training you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in New River Arizona.