How to Pick the Right Paralegal Studies Training Program near Higley Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Higley AZ and start your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you locate the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students begin by looking for schools within driving range of their Higley homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be taken into account too. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your choice. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill the same job roles and functions, 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 help Higley AZ attorneys with a wide range of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their regular tasks might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and very demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
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 opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Higley AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve as little as 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected 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 paralegal certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Higley AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical factors to think about also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee 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 as well. Many Higley AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Higley AZ law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even when 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 an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Higley AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary from state to state, it might be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you want to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to build relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to first investigate those colleges that are within the Higley AZ area.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be accessible to help reduce some of the expense, so make sure to check with the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Higley AZ. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, some of these additional expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Higley AZ, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you choose provides that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Degrees
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more popular and may be an excellent option for those searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to individuals who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a reputable organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Higley AZ?
If you live near Higley 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.
Higley Unified School District
The Higley Unified School District #60, abbreviated HUSD #60 is a school district in Gilbert, Arizona. The school district serves portions of Gilbert and Queen Creek. It is one of Arizona's fastest growing school districts, with modest continued growth despite the downturn in the economy at the end of the 2000s (decade). The District owns eight elementary schools and two high schools. In August 2013, the district opened two new middle schools and all other elementary schools that hosted grades K-8 went down to K-6.
The Higley district was incorporated in 1909 with a territory far larger than its current size, but most of the land was transferred to other Valley school districts over the years. For instance, the Queen Creek Unified School District was carved out of the Higley district in 1947.Higley Elementary School was the only school in the district for the next 53 years. The district's high school students went to Gilbert Public Schools' high schools. As the Valley expanded, Larry Likes, then-superintendent of the district, brought it through an era of suburbia swallowing the local farmland. It was not long before the growth of the 1990s and 2000s caught up to the district's 24-square-mile (62 km2) service area. In 1999, the district legally unified; in 2000, it opened Coronado Elementary School, its first new school in decades; in 2001, Higley High School opened its doors; four years later, it opened up Gateway Pointe Elementary School, then a year later, it opened Cortina Elementary School; another year later, further growth induced the opening of Williams Field High School. In the spring of 2008, Higley became the first district in Arizona to receive K-12 accreditation by the AdvancED/North Central Accreditation Team. Graduating Higley seniors were offered $2.7 million in academic and athletic scholarships.
The district opened two middle schools (Cooley Middle School and Sossaman Middle School) to better prepare 7th and 8th grade students for high school and to alleviate projected capacity issues at its elementary schools.
Colleges With Paralegal Programs Higley AZ
Choosing the best paralegal training school is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Colleges With Paralegal Programs. But as we have covered 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 Higley home. Paralegal training programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Different kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you decide to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to review each school and make your final decision. And with the right education you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Higley AZ.
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