How to Find a Paralegal Degree Program near Phoenix Arizona
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Phoenix AZ and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students begin by searching for paralegal schools within driving range of their Phoenix homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program should be taken into account also. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your choice. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill the same job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist lawyers in Phoenix AZ with a wide variety of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their routine tasks might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a Phoenix AZ 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 restricted to administrative or clerical tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers 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 actually 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 fastest way to launch your career in Phoenix AZ as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which may require just 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. After you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your career opportunities, but help establish 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Phoenix AZ.
Online Paralegal Degrees
Online paralegal programs have become more popular and can be a good option for those in Phoenix AZ looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to those who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can begin the process of evaluating Phoenix AZ area schools. But because there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical aspects to consider also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Phoenix AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the Phoenix AZ paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent 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 call a few law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Phoenix AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable 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? Because laws vary from state to state, it may be advantageous to select a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to first investigate those colleges that are within your Phoenix AZ local area.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be obtainable to help reduce some of the expense, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Phoenix AZ. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Phoenix AZ, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in offers that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Phoenix AZ?
Phoenix (/ˈfiːnɪks/) is the capital and most populous city of the U.S. state of Arizona. With 1,615,017 people (as of 2016[update]), Phoenix is the fifth most populous city nationwide, the most populous state capital in the United States, and the only state capital with a population of more than one million residents.
Phoenix is the anchor of the Phoenix metropolitan area, also known as the Valley of the Sun, which in turn is a part of the Salt River Valley. The metropolitan area is the 12th largest by population in the United States, with approximately 4.73 million people as of 2017[update]. In addition, Phoenix is the seat of Maricopa County, and at 517.9 square miles (1,341 km2), it is the largest city in the state, more than twice the size of Tucson and one of the largest cities in the United States.
Settled in 1867 as an agricultural community near the confluence of the Salt and Gila Rivers, Phoenix incorporated as a city in 1881. It became the capital of Arizona in 1889. Located in the northeastern reaches of the Sonoran Desert, Phoenix has a hot desert climate. Despite this, its canal system led to a thriving farming community, many of the original crops remaining important parts of the Phoenix economy for decades, such as alfalfa, cotton, citrus, and hay (which was important for the cattle industry). Cotton, cattle, citrus, climate, and copper were known locally as the "Five C's" of Phoenix's economy. These industries remained the driving forces of the city until after World War II, when high-tech companies began to move into the valley and air conditioning made Phoenix's hot summers more bearable.
The city averaged a four percent annual population growth rate over a 40-year period from the mid-1960s to the mid-2000s. This growth rate slowed during the Great Recession of 2007–09, and has rebounded slowly. Phoenix is the cultural center of the Valley of the Sun, as well as the entire state.
Choose the Best Paralegal Certificate Program near Phoenix AZ
Selecting the best paralegal educational program is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Phoenix home. Paralegal training programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Various kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful 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 presented you will have the ability to assess each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the right training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Phoenix AZ.
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