How to Find a Paralegal Degree Program near Laveen Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Laveen AZ and start your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by trying to find schools within commuting distance of their Laveen residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program must be considered too. Later on 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 selection. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options 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 roles and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Laveen AZ lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but some of their regular tasks may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Preparing 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 maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Laveen AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can take as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Laveen AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly 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 looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant aspects to consider as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education 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 Laveen AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Research 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 previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you choose 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 call a few Laveen AZ law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also present an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Laveen AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws differ among states, it may be advantageous to select a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to first look at those schools that are within the Laveen AZ region.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help minimize some of the cost, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Laveen AZ. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these added costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Laveen AZ, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you enroll in provides that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Programs
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more prevalent and may be an excellent option for those searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to individuals who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Laveen AZ?
If you live near Laveen 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.
Laveen /ləˈviːn/ is an "urban village" within the city of Phoenix in Maricopa County, Arizona, United States, situated eight miles (13 km) southwest of Downtown Phoenix between South Mountain and the confluence of the Gila and Salt rivers. Parts of Laveen constitute an unincorporated community in Maricopa County, while the remainder falls within the city limits of Phoenix, constituting the city's "Laveen Village". Laveen Village is split between District 7 and District 8, both notable as minority-majority districts for the city. Although Laveen has been home to "pastoral alfalfa, cotton, and dairy farms" since the 1880s, housing and commercial developments have been increasingly urbanizing the area.
The Laveen area was first settled by farmers and dairymen in 1884. Despite its proximity to Phoenix, the community was isolated from its larger neighbor by the Salt River, which until the Roosevelt Dam was completed in 1911 carried water year-round. The only bridged crossing was at Central Avenue, more than six miles (10 km) away. Because of its isolation, like the rest of south Phoenix early Laveen was autonomous of Phoenix and became relatively self-sufficient, supporting two general stores, a barbershop, repair garage, two pool halls, and a building for the Laveen Women's Club. These businesses served as important gathering places for the greater Laveen community, which includes modern south Phoenix and the neighboring Gila River Indian Community (GRIC)
In the early 1900s, Walter E. Laveen and his family homesteaded an area encompassing all four corners of present-day 51st Avenue and Dobbins Road, where they also built the area's first general store—the Laveen Store—on the southeast corner. Members of the Laveen family donated land adjacent to their store for a school, which was built in 1913 and named Laveen School. A second general store, the Del Monte Market, was built in 1908 at 27th Avenue and Dobbins Road and is considered the oldest still standing building in Laveen.
Select the Ideal Paralegal Program near Laveen AZ
Choosing the best paralegal training program is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Laveen home. Paralegal training programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Various types of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you decide to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to evaluate each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Laveen AZ.
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