How to Choose a Paralegal Training Program near Goodyear Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Goodyear AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you locate the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students begin by looking for schools within driving range of their Goodyear residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program must be taken into account as well. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, only 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 Goodyear AZ lawyers with a wide range of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but some of their regular activities may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional 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 authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients 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. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Goodyear AZ is by earning a certificate, which may require just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded 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 school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Goodyear AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other crucial factors to consider also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Goodyear AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually available only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Goodyear AZ law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while still in school. They can also present an avenue for students to start creating contacts within the Goodyear AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ from state to state, it may be a good idea to select a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to build relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially consider those colleges that are within the Goodyear AZ area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be available to help offset part of the expense, so be sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Goodyear AZ. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate 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 Goodyear AZ, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you choose offers that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making up missed classes due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Classes
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more common and may be a good alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to those who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing 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 conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Goodyear AZ?
If you live near Goodyear 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.
Goodyear (O'odham: Valin Thak) is a city in Maricopa County, Arizona, United States. It is a suburb of Phoenix and at the 2010 census had a population of 65,275, the third fastest-growing city in Arizona between 1990 and 2000. The 2015 population estimate was 79,003.
In 2008, Goodyear won the All-America City Award, sponsored by the National Civic League. The city is named after the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. The company cultivated extensive farmland here to grow cotton for use in their tires.
Goodyear was established in 1917 with the purchase of 16,000 acres (65 km2) of land by the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company to cultivate cotton for vehicle tire cords. World War II was important to Goodyear in the 1940s as the current Phoenix Goodyear Airport was built, but after the war, the economy suffered. Goodyear became a town on November 19, 1946. At the time, it had 151 homes and 250 apartments, a grocery store, a barber shop, beauty shop and a gas station.
Choose the Ideal Paralegal School near Goodyear AZ
Selecting the best paralegal training program is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Goodyear residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Several types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you choose to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to examine each school and make your final selection. And with the right training you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Goodyear AZ.
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