How to Choose a Paralegal Training Program near Gilbert Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Gilbert AZ and start your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students begin by trying to find schools within commuting range of their Gilbert residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program must be taken into account as well. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable 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 belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Gilbert AZ lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but some of their regular tasks can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. On the other hand, 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 limited to administrative or clerical duties more applicable 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 take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Gilbert AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can take as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Gilbert AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical factors to research as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select 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 receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Gilbert AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is a good 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 contact several Gilbert AZ law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Keep 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 Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while attending school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Gilbert AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary from state to state, it may be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you want to work after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to create relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to first consider those schools that are within the Gilbert AZ area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be available to help minimize part of the cost, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Gilbert AZ. Of course if you opt to attend an online program, some of these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Gilbert AZ, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you choose offers that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Schools
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more common and can be a good alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater 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 school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Gilbert AZ?
If you live near Gilbert 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.
Gilbert is a town in Maricopa County, Arizona, United States, located southeast of Phoenix, within the Phoenix metropolitan area. Once known as the "Hay Shipping Capital of the World", It is the sixth-largest municipality in Arizona, and the fifth-largest in the Metropolitan Phoenix Area.
Gilbert encompasses 76 square miles (197 km2) and has made a rapid transformation from an agriculture-based community to an economically diverse suburban center located in the southeast valley of the Greater Phoenix area. In the last three decades, Gilbert has grown at an extremely high rate, increasing in population from 5,717 in 1980 to 208,453 as of the 2010 census. The town grew at an average annual growth rate of nearly 13% during this 30-year period. In 2017, the town's population was estimated to be at 242,354.
Gilbert owes its beginnings to William "Bobby" Gilbert who provided land to the Arizona Eastern Railway in 1902 to construct a rail line between Phoenix and Florence, Arizona. Ayer's Grocery Store, the first store in Gilbert, opened in 1910 and became the location of the first post office in 1912. The location of the town post office moved several times before settling on the east side of Gilbert Road in downtown, where it still stands today. In 1912, many Mormons who had fled the Mormon colonies in Mexico due to the actions of the forces of Pancho Villa settled in Gilbert. By 1915, they began holding church meetings at the Gilbert Elementary School. In 1918, they were organized into the Gilbert Ward.
Select the Right Paralegal School near Gilbert AZ
Selecting the right paralegal educational program is a vital 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 Gilbert home. Paralegal education programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Several types of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Gilbert AZ.
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