How to Choose a Paralegal Certificate Program near Chandler Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Chandler AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students start by searching for paralegal schools within driving range of their Chandler residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be considered as well. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your selection. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold comparable job positions and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help attorneys in Chandler AZ with a wide variety of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, 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 could assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their daily activities can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a Chandler AZ paralegal can be complicated and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks 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 ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to manage a much larger volume 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 possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to start your career in Chandler AZ as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your career opportunities, but help substantiate 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 school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Chandler AZ.
Paralegal Online Degrees
Paralegal online schools have become more popular and may be a good option for students in Chandler AZ looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to those who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the ideal option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing Chandler AZ area schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant aspects to consider also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program 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 program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Chandler AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the Chandler AZ paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several law offices that you may have an interest 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 could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while attending school. They can also present an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Chandler AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools 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 offered? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it may be advantageous to select a paralegal school located in the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps 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, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to first consider those schools that are within your Chandler AZ local region.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be accessible to help offset part of the expense, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Chandler AZ. Of course if you opt to attend an online program, some of these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Chandler AZ, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you choose offers that option. Last, find out what the process is for making-up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Chandler AZ?
Chandler is a city in Maricopa County, Arizona, United States, and a prominent suburb of the Phoenix, Arizona, Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). It is bordered to the north and west by Tempe, to the north by Mesa, to the west by Phoenix, to the south by the Gila River Indian Community, and to the east by Gilbert. As of 2017, the population was estimated at 253,458 according to the United States Census Bureau.
In 1891, Dr. Alexander John Chandler, the first veterinary surgeon in Arizona Territory, settled on a ranch south of Mesa, studying irrigation engineering. By 1900, he had acquired 18,000 acres (73 km2) of land, and began drawing up plans for a townsite on what was then known as the Chandler Ranch. The townsite office opened on May 17, 1912, the same year that Chandler High School was established. The townsite was bounded by Galveston Street on the north, Frye Road on the south, Hartford Street on the west, and Hamilton Street on the east. By 1913, a town center had become established, featuring the Hotel San Marcos, the first golf resort in the state.
Most of Chandler's economy was successfully sustained during the Great Depression (a second San Marcos hotel was canceled due to the Depression however), but the cotton crash a few years later had a much deeper impact on the city's residents. Later, the founding of Williams Air Force Base in 1941 led to a small surge in population, but Chandler still only held 3,800 people by 1950. By 1980, it had grown to 30,000, and it has since paced the Phoenix metropolitan area's high rate of growth, with vast suburban residential areas swallowing former agricultural plots. Some of this growth was fueled by the establishment of manufacturing plants for communications and computing firms such as Microchip, Motorola and Intel.
Since the early 1990s, the City of Chandler has experienced exponential growth, ranking among the fastest-growing municipalities in the country. Indeed, nearly 100,000 homes dot the landscape today and the population has surged to more than 238,000 residents. The heart of Chandler remains its revitalized historic downtown, which includes the award-winning Chandler City Hall and a Center for the Arts. In 2010, Chandler was named as an All-America City, bestowed by the National Civic League. Chandler was the only Arizona winner for the 61st annual awards. In 2012, the city celebrated its 100th birthday. Centennial events were planned throughout the year.
Select the Right Paralegal Degree Program near Chandler AZ
Choosing the right paralegal degree program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Chandler residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Several types of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you choose to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to assess each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Chandler AZ.
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