How to Choose a Paralegal College near Tempe Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Tempe AZ and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive 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 more and more academic options are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students begin by looking for paralegal schools within traveling range of their Tempe residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school must be considered as well. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your selection. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives 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 hold comparable 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 different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist lawyers in Tempe AZ with a wide range of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice 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 usually billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but some of their everyday tasks may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a Tempe AZ paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career in Tempe AZ as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve as little as six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Tempe AZ.
Paralegal Online Certificates
Online paralegal programs have become more popular and can be an excellent alternative for individuals in Tempe AZ searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to those who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program 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 structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating Tempe AZ area schools. But because there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial factors to consider as well, 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 effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Tempe AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the Tempe AZ paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, 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 law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also offer a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Tempe AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ from one state to another, it may be a good idea to select a paralegal school located in the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be important to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the area where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially investigate those schools that are within your Tempe AZ local area.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help offset part of the expense, so make sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Tempe AZ. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Tempe AZ, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you choose offers that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Tempe AZ?
Tempe (/ˈtɛmpiː/ TEM'-pee;Oidbaḍ in Pima), also known as Hayden's Ferry during the territorial times of Arizona, is a city in Maricopa County, Arizona, United States, with the Census Bureau reporting a 2010 population of 161,719. The city is named after the Vale of Tempe in Greece. Tempe is located in the East Valley section of metropolitan Phoenix; it is bordered by Phoenix and Guadalupe on the west, Scottsdale on the north, Chandler on the south, and Mesa on the east. Tempe is also the location of the main campus of Arizona State University.
Fort McDowell was established approximately 25 mi (40 km) northeast of present downtown Tempe on the upper Salt River in 1865 allowing for new towns to be built farther down the Salt River. US military service members and Hispanic workers were hired to grow food and animal feed to supply the fort, and less than a year later, had set up small camps near the river that were the first permanent communities in the Valley after the fall of the Hohokam. (Phoenix was settled shortly afterward, by 1867–68.) The two settlements were 'Hayden's Ferry', named after a ferry service operated by Charles T. Hayden, and 'San Pablo', and were located west and east of Hayden Butte respectively. The ferry became the key river crossing in the area. The Tempe Irrigating Canal Company was soon established by William Kirkland and James McKinney to provide water for alfalfa, wheat, barley, oats, and cotton.
Pioneer Darrell Duppa is credited with suggesting Tempe's name, adopted in 1879, after comparing the Salt River valley near a 300-foot (91 m)-tall butte, to the Vale of Tempe near Mount Olympus in Greece.
In 1885, the 13th Arizona Territorial Legislature chose Tempe for the site of the Territorial Normal School, which became Arizona Normal School, Arizona State Teachers College, Arizona State College and finally Arizona State University.
Choose the Best Paralegal Training near Tempe AZ
Choosing the best paralegal educational 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 Tempe residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Several kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you elect to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Tempe AZ.
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