How to Find the Right Paralegal 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 gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you find the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students start by looking for schools within driving distance of their New River residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program should be taken into consideration also. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold the same job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help New River AZ attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their regular activities can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually 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 means to begin your career as a legal assistant in New River AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded certifying organizations in the field 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 school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Certificates and Degrees
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more prevalent and can be a good option for those searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to New River AZ students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the right option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the New River AZ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important issues to think about also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous New River AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few New River AZ law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also present a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the New River AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it may be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you want to work after graduation. Also, it will be important to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased 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 programs can vary in price based on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help offset part of the cost, so be sure to talk to the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in New River AZ. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and require 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. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you choose offers that option. Last, find out what the process is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Best New River Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the right paralegal studies training school is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your New River home. Paralegal training programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Different kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you choose 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 school and make your final decision. And with the right education you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in New River Arizona.