How to Choose a Paralegal Training Program near Higley Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Higley AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by looking for schools within traveling range of their Higley residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be taken into consideration too. Later on in this post 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 selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Higley AZ lawyers with a wide range of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their daily activities may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger number of cases or clients 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. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Higley AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive 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 available as well. After you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may choose 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 increase your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected 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 discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Higley AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must 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 certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical aspects to think about also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Higley AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of special 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 school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Higley AZ law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Higley AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary from state to state, it may be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you want to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be important to create relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to first consider those schools that are within the Higley AZ area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be available to help minimize some of the cost, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Higley AZ. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Higley AZ, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you enroll in provides that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making up classes missed due to work, illness or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Training
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more popular and can be a good alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Higley AZ?
If you live near Higley 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.
Higley Unified School District
The Higley Unified School District #60, abbreviated HUSD #60 is a school district in Gilbert, Arizona. The school district serves portions of Gilbert and Queen Creek. It is one of Arizona's fastest growing school districts, with modest continued growth despite the downturn in the economy at the end of the 2000s (decade). The District owns eight elementary schools and two high schools. In August 2013, the district opened two new middle schools and all other elementary schools that hosted grades K-8 went down to K-6.
The Higley district was incorporated in 1909 with a territory far larger than its current size, but most of the land was transferred to other Valley school districts over the years. For instance, the Queen Creek Unified School District was carved out of the Higley district in 1947.Higley Elementary School was the only school in the district for the next 53 years. The district's high school students went to Gilbert Public Schools' high schools. As the Valley expanded, Larry Likes, then-superintendent of the district, brought it through an era of suburbia swallowing the local farmland. It was not long before the growth of the 1990s and 2000s caught up to the district's 24-square-mile (62 km2) service area. In 1999, the district legally unified; in 2000, it opened Coronado Elementary School, its first new school in decades; in 2001, Higley High School opened its doors; four years later, it opened up Gateway Pointe Elementary School, then a year later, it opened Cortina Elementary School; another year later, further growth induced the opening of Williams Field High School. In the spring of 2008, Higley became the first district in Arizona to receive K-12 accreditation by the AdvancED/North Central Accreditation Team. Graduating Higley seniors were offered $2.7 million in academic and athletic scholarships.
The district opened two middle schools (Cooley Middle School and Sossaman Middle School) to better prepare 7th and 8th grade students for high school and to alleviate projected capacity issues at its elementary schools.
Select the Right Paralegal Certificate Program near Higley AZ
Enrolling in the best paralegal degree program is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Higley residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Various types of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you elect to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to review each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Higley AZ.
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