How to Choose a Paralegal Program near Altadena California
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Altadena CA 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 require 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 choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students begin by looking for paralegal schools within traveling distance of their Altadena residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program must be considered too. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist lawyers in Altadena CA with a diverse array of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their everyday activities can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a Altadena CA paralegal can be complex and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to start your career in Altadena CA as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which can require just 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in California to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Altadena CA.
Online Paralegal Training
Paralegal online programs have become more common and can be a good option for students in Altadena CA looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to those who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the right option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the process of evaluating Altadena CA area schools. But because there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical issues to research as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Altadena CA law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the Altadena CA paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program 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 determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep 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 an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to start creating contacts within the Altadena CA legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with California legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ from one state to another, it might be beneficial to select a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you plan to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to initially investigate those schools that are within your Altadena CA local area.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be accessible to help offset some of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Altadena CA. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, some of these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Altadena CA, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you choose offers that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Altadena CA?
Altadena is an unincorporated area and census-designated place in Los Angeles County, California, United States, approximately 14 miles (23 km) from the downtown Los Angeles Civic Center, and directly north of the city of Pasadena, California. The population was 42,777 at the 2010 census, up from 42,610 at the 2000 census.
In the mid-1860s, Benjamin Eaton first developed water sources from the Arroyo Seco and Eaton Canyon to irrigate his vineyard near the edge of Eaton Canyon. This made possible the development of Altadena, Pasadena, and South Pasadena. He did the construction for B. D. Wilson and Dr. John Griffin, who jointly owned the Mexican land grant of Rancho San Pascual, about 14,000 acres (57 km2), that was the future sites of these three communities. They hoped to develop and sell this land in a real estate plan called the San Pasqual Plantation. Their efforts failed by 1870, despite Eaton's irrigation ditch that drew water from the site of present-day Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Arroyo Seco. They had failed because the land was relatively inaccessible and few believed crops could thrive that close to the mountains.
Eaton tried to sell the land for the partners, and in late 1873 he helped broker a deal with Daniel Berry, who represented a group of investors from Indiana, to buy 4,000 acres (16 km2) of the rancho. This included the land of present-day Altadena, but they developed a 2,500 acres (10 km2) section further south as Pasadena. In 1881, the land that would later become Altadena was sold to John and Fred Woodbury, brothers who launched the subdivision of Altadena in 1887. The land remained primarily agricultural, though several eastern millionaires built mansions along Mariposa Street, and a small community developed through the 1890s and into the next century.
In 1880, Capt. Frederick Woodbury, and his brother, John Woodbury of Marshalltown, Iowa, purchased 937 acres (3.79 km2) known as the Woodbury Ranch. John Woodbury established the Pasadena Improvement Company in 1887, with a plot plan of residential development referred to as the Woodbury Subdivision. They contacted Byron O. Clark, who established a nursery in the foothills in 1875, and had since moved away. He called his nursery "Altadena Nursery", a name he coined from the Spanish "alta" meaning "upper", and "dena" from Pasadena. Woodbury asked if he could use the name "Altadena" for his subdivision and Clark agreed.
Select the Right Paralegal Degree Program near Altadena CA
Selecting the ideal paralegal degree program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Altadena residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Different types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you decide to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to review each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Altadena CA.
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