How to Pick a Paralegal Program near Surprise Arizona
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Surprise AZ and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational choices are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by searching for paralegal schools within commuting distance of their Surprise residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school must be taken into account also. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your selection. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist attorneys in Surprise AZ with a wide range of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, 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 could assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high level 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 daily tasks can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a Surprise AZ paralegal can be involved and very 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 proceeding. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to start your career in Surprise AZ as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may take just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Surprise AZ.
Paralegal Online Training
Online paralegal programs have become more common and can be an excellent alternative for individuals in Surprise AZ searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to those who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address 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 considering are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating Surprise AZ area schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant factors to consider also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Surprise AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the Surprise AZ paralegal schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including 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 law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start creating contacts within the Surprise AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary among states, it might be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school located in the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to develop relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to first consider those schools that are within your Surprise AZ local area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be accessible to help reduce some of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Surprise AZ. Naturally 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 Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Surprise AZ, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Surprise AZ?
Surprise is a city in Maricopa County, in the U.S. state of Arizona. The population was 30,848 at the 2000 census; however, rapid expansion has boosted the city's population to 117,517 at the 2010 census, an increase of 281%. As such, it is the second-fastest-expanding municipality in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area (after Gilbert) and, between 1990 and 2000, it was the sixth-fastest-expanding place among all cities and towns in Arizona.
The city has a 10,562-square-foot (981.2 m2) Aquatics Center and Maricopa County's northwest regional library, a $5.5 million, 20,000-square-foot (1,900 m2) library, along with a 100.3 cost of living index.
The city was founded in 1938 by Flora Mae Statler, who named it Surprise as she "would be surprised if the town ever amounted to much". Surprise officials previously thought the city was founded by Statler's husband, real estate developer and state legislator Homer C. Ludden, but in 2010 property records were discovered which listed Statler owning the land before she met Ludden.
Although there were only a few houses and a gas station on the one-square-mile (1.6 km) parcel of land when it was subdivided to build inexpensive houses for agricultural workers, Surprise has experienced tremendous growth in the years since. It incorporated into a city in 1960, the townsite being bounded by Greenway Road on the south, El Mirage Road on the east, Bell Road on the north, and Dysart Road on the west.
Select the Best Paralegal College near Surprise AZ
Choosing the right paralegal training program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Surprise residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Different types of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you elect to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to review each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Surprise AZ.
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