How to Pick a Paralegal Certificate Program near Paradise Valley Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Paradise Valley AZ and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you locate the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students start by looking for schools within driving distance of their Paradise Valley residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program should be taken into consideration too. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill the same job positions and functions, 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 assist Paradise Valley AZ attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their daily tasks may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay 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 involved and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more suited 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 number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Paradise Valley AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few 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 program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Paradise Valley AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant aspects to think about as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency 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 targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Paradise Valley AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose 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 some Paradise Valley AZ law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while attending school. They can also offer a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Paradise Valley AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ from one state to another, it might be beneficial to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to first look at those schools that are within the Paradise Valley AZ area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be obtainable to help minimize some of the expense, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Paradise Valley AZ. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these added costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Paradise Valley AZ, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you choose provides that option. Finally, inquire what the procedure is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Classes
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more available and may be an excellent option for students looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online schools can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Paradise Valley AZ?
If you live near Paradise Valley 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.
Paradise Valley, Arizona
Paradise Valley is a small, affluent town in Maricopa County, Arizona. The town is known for its luxury golf courses, shopping, and restaurant scene. According to the 2010 census, the population of the town was 12,820. Despite the town's relatively small area and population compared to other municipalities in the Phoenix metropolitan area, Paradise Valley is home to eight full-service resorts, making it one of Arizona's premier tourist destinations. It is also known for expensive real estate.
It should not be confused with Paradise Valley Village, an official municipal designation, in northeast Phoenix. For instance, Paradise Valley Community College, Paradise Valley High School, Paradise Valley Hospital, Paradise Valley Mall, and Paradise Valley Golf Course are all located several miles to the north of the town, in Phoenix. The town's name along with all the other various entities bearing the same name comes from the expansive area known as Paradise Valley, that spreads from north of the Phoenix Mountains to Cave Creek and Carefree on the north and the McDowell Mountains to the east.
The Paradise Valley Unified School District is one of the largest in the state, though like many other institutions with the name Paradise Valley, it refers to the Phoenix village, and not to the town.
Select the Right Paralegal Training near Paradise Valley AZ
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal educational program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Paradise Valley residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Various kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you choose to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to evaluate each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Paradise Valley AZ.
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