How to Pick the Right Paralegal Studies Degree Program near Gilbert Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Gilbert AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students start by searching for schools within driving distance of their Gilbert residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be considered too. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your choice. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals 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 different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Gilbert AZ lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but some of their daily tasks might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually 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 fastest means to start your career as a paralegal in Gilbert AZ is by earning a certificate, which can require just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. 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 paralegal certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Points to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Gilbert AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate 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 crucial factors to research also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a reputable 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 quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Gilbert AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Gilbert AZ law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Gilbert AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication 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 Campus Located? Because laws differ from one state to another, it may be beneficial to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be important to create relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the community where you desire to work. 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 may wish to initially consider those colleges that are within the Gilbert AZ area.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help offset part of the expense, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Gilbert AZ. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these added expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Gilbert AZ, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you choose makes available that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Schools
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more prevalent and may be an excellent option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can often be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the right choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Gilbert AZ?
If you live near Gilbert 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.
Gilbert is a town in Maricopa County, Arizona, United States, located southeast of Phoenix, within the Phoenix metropolitan area. Once known as the "Hay Shipping Capital of the World", It is the sixth-largest municipality in Arizona, and the fifth-largest in the Metropolitan Phoenix Area.
Gilbert encompasses 76 square miles (197 km2) and has made a rapid transformation from an agriculture-based community to an economically diverse suburban center located in the southeast valley of the Greater Phoenix area. In the last three decades, Gilbert has grown at an extremely high rate, increasing in population from 5,717 in 1980 to 208,453 as of the 2010 census. The town grew at an average annual growth rate of nearly 13% during this 30-year period. In 2017, the town's population was estimated to be at 242,354.
Gilbert owes its beginnings to William "Bobby" Gilbert who provided land to the Arizona Eastern Railway in 1902 to construct a rail line between Phoenix and Florence, Arizona. Ayer's Grocery Store, the first store in Gilbert, opened in 1910 and became the location of the first post office in 1912. The location of the town post office moved several times before settling on the east side of Gilbert Road in downtown, where it still stands today. In 1912, many Mormons who had fled the Mormon colonies in Mexico due to the actions of the forces of Pancho Villa settled in Gilbert. By 1915, they began holding church meetings at the Gilbert Elementary School. In 1918, they were organized into the Gilbert Ward.
Paralegal Training Courses Gilbert AZ
Choosing the best paralegal degree school is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Paralegal Training Courses. But as we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Gilbert residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Several types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective 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 program and make your final selection. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Gilbert AZ.
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