How to Choose a Paralegal Certificate Program near Buckeye Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Buckeye AZ and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by looking for schools within commuting range of their Buckeye residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be taken into account as well. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Buckeye AZ attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. 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 may help with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their routine tasks might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and very challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Buckeye AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. Once you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Buckeye AZ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial aspects to consider also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Buckeye AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Buckeye AZ law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also present a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Buckeye AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it may be a good idea to select a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially consider those colleges that are within the Buckeye AZ area.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. 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 aid may be obtainable to help offset part of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Buckeye AZ. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these added expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Buckeye AZ, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Schools
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more common and can be a good alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to individuals who keep working while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online programs can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Buckeye AZ?
If you live near Buckeye AZ or perhaps you are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
Buckeye is a city in Maricopa County, Arizona and is the westernmost suburb in the Phoenix metropolitan area. The population was 62,582 in 2015. It is one of the fastest-growing cities in the US; in 2016, it placed seventh.
Early settler Malin M. Jackson developed 10 miles (16 km) of the Buckeye Canal from 1884 to 1886, which he named after his home state of Ohio's moniker, "The Buckeye State". The town was founded in 1888 and originally named "Sidney," after Jackson's home town in Ohio. However, because of the significance of the canal, the town became known as Buckeye. The name was legally changed to Buckeye in 1910. The town was incorporated in 1929, at which time it included 440 acres (180 ha). The town's first mayor was Hugh M. Watson (1956–1958), who founded the Buckeye Valley Bank. Today, Watson Road is the site of the city's commercial center.
In 2013, a video featuring a Verrado High School student who overcame Down's Syndrome to join the school's cheerleading squad, and using the Katy Perry song "Roar", was selected as a finalist in a Good Morning America contest.
Choose the Ideal Paralegal Program near Buckeye AZ
Enrolling in the best paralegal educational program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Buckeye home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Various types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you choose to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Buckeye AZ.
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