How to Choose the Right Legal Assistant School near Central Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Central AZ and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it’s essential that you locate the best school so that you will get the comprehensive 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 educational choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students start by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Central homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school should be taken into consideration too. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your selection. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold the same job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Central AZ lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their regular tasks may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers 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 additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Training 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 prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Central AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Central AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant issues to consider also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency 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 targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Central AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Central AZ law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also present a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Central AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws differ among states, it might be advantageous to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even 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 live outside of their districts. So you might need to first consider those colleges that are within the Central AZ area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be available to help minimize some of the expense, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Central AZ. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Central AZ, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you choose provides that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Classes
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more available and may be a good alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to those who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in more 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 program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the right option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Central AZ?
If you live near Central Arizona or perhaps are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
The Arizona Hotshots are a professional American football team based in Phoenix, Arizona, and one of the charter members of the Alliance of American Football, which began play in February 2019. They play their home games at Sun Devil Stadium on the campus of Arizona State University. They are coached by former USFL player and college head coach Rick Neuheisel. Scott Brubaker is the team president and Phil Savage is the general manager.
Rick Neuheisel was announced as the head coach of the Arizona Hotshots by the Alliance of American Football on May 18, 2018. The team was slated to play at Sun Devil Stadium. By September 25, Scott Brubaker and Phil Savage were named team president and general manager, respectively.
Phoenix's name and logo were revealed on September 25, 2018, as the Arizona Hotshots along with the other three western teams. The name is a tribute to the region's firefighters, nicknamed hotshots, while the color scheme of green, orange, and yellow are commonly worn by such fire crews. The team's logo is a pair of crossed pickhead axe, which are used by firefighters. The branding was developed by the national office then handed off to the team staff. Reception of the name was mixed, with some arguing it "exploits the memory of the Granite Mountain Hotshots."
Certificate In Legal Studies Central AZ
Choosing the ideal paralegal studies degree school is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Certificate In Legal Studies. But as we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Central residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Several types of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you choose to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to examine each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal training you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Central AZ.
Other Arizona Locations That May Be Of Interest