How to Find a Paralegal School near El Mirage Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near El Mirage AZ and start your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you locate the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by trying to find schools within commuting range of their El Mirage homes. Of those choices, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into account as well. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your selection. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help El Mirage AZ lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their routine activities can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically 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 fastest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in El Mirage AZ is by earning a certificate, which may take just 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the El Mirage AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other crucial issues to research as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of El Mirage AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying 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 determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some El Mirage AZ law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to start creating contacts within the El Mirage AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent 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 in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ from one state to another, it may be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to first consider those colleges that are within the El Mirage AZ area.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help minimize some of the cost, so be sure to contact the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in El Mirage AZ. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near El Mirage AZ, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in provides that option. Last, ask what the process is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Degrees
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more common and can be a good option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least 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 thinking about are accredited by a reputable organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near El Mirage AZ?
If you live near El Mirage AZ or perhaps you are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
El Mirage, Arizona
As of the census of 2000, there were 7,609 people, 2,121 households, and 1,737 families residing in the city. The population density was 786.8 people per square mile (303.8/km²). There were 3,162 housing units at an average density of 326.9 per square mile (126.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 66.26% White, 3.29% Black or African American, 0.85% Native American, 0.38% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 26.18% from other races, and 2.98% from two or more races. 66.82% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 2,121 households out of which 48.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.3% were married couples living together, 17.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 18.1% were non-families. 13.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 3.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.59 and the average family size was 3.87.
In the city, the population was spread out with 36.8% under the age of 18, 14.1% from 18 to 24, 28.6% from 25 to 44, 13.8% from 45 to 64, and 6.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 25 years. For every 100 females, there were 105.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 105.0 males.
Select the Best Paralegal Certificate Program near El Mirage AZ
Selecting the right paralegal educational program is a vital first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your El Mirage residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Several kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you decide to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to examine each school and make your final selection. And with the right training you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in El Mirage AZ.
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