How to Pick a Paralegal Training Program near Chandler Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Chandler AZ and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you locate the best school so that you will receive 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 more and more academic options are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students begin by searching for schools within commuting range of their Chandler residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be considered also. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your decision. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill the same job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Chandler AZ lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day activities might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Chandler AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded 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 cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Chandler AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most prospective 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 significant issues to consider as well, 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 investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show 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. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Chandler AZ law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Chandler AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from one state to another, it might be advantageous to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to first investigate those schools that are within the Chandler AZ area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential received and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be obtainable to help offset part of the expense, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Chandler AZ. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these added costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Chandler AZ, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you enroll in offers that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making-up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Classes
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more popular and may be an excellent option for those looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to those who keep working while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online classes can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a reputable agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the right option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Chandler AZ?
If you live near Chandler 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.
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 July 2015, the population was 260,828 according to the United States Census Bureau, According to the city's official website, Chandler's Transportation & Development Department estimated the population, as of May 2016, to be 247,328. It also has satellite locations for many technology companies, including Intel and Orbital ATK.
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.
Find the Right Legal Assistant Program near Chandler AZ
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal degree program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed 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 home. Paralegal education programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you choose to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to evaluate each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Chandler AZ.
Other Arizona Locations That May Be Of Interest
Business Results 1 - 10 of 407