How to Choose a Paralegal College near Aptos California
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Aptos CA and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you find the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students begin by looking for paralegal schools within traveling distance of their Aptos residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program must be taken into consideration as well. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational options that are available 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 fill comparable job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist lawyers in Aptos CA with a diverse array of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their daily tasks might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a Aptos CA paralegal can be involved and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more suited 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 preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to start your career in Aptos CA as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve as little as six months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in California to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Aptos CA.
Paralegal Online Certificates
Online paralegal schools have become more common and may be an excellent alternative for those in Aptos CA searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to those who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing Aptos CA area schools. But because there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important factors to research as well, such as 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 researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Aptos CA law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the Aptos CA paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Aptos CA legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult 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 large networks and good relationships with California legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws differ from one state to another, it might be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to develop relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the area where you want to practice. 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 need to initially consider those schools that are within your Aptos CA local region.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help minimize some of the expense, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Aptos CA. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Aptos CA, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you choose offers that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Aptos CA?
For statistical purposes, the United States Census Bureau has defined Aptos as a census-designated place (CDP). The census definition of the area is limited in contrast to the local understanding of the area with the same name. The population of the CDP was 6,220 at the 2010 census.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 6.4 square miles (17 km2), all land. The southwestern geographical boundary is Monterey Bay, while the northeast boundary is the Santa Cruz Mountains.
The name Aptos is Ohlone, meaning "the people". Aptos was traditionally inhabited by the Ohlone Awaswas people. The name is one of only three native words that have survived (in Hispanicized form) as place names in Santa Cruz County (the others are Soquel and Zayante).
The first European land exploration of Alta California, the Spanish Portolà expedition, passed through the area on its way north, camping at one of the creeks on October 16, 1769. The expedition diaries don't provide enough information to be sure which creek it was, but the direction of travel was northwest, parallel to the coast. Franciscan missionary Juan Crespi, traveling with the expedition, noted in his diary that, "We stopped on the bank of a small stream, which has about four varas of deep running water. It has on its banks a good growth of cottonwoods and alders; on account of the depth at which it runs it may be that it cannot be utilized to water some plains through which it runs." Crespi diary translator Herbert Bolton speculated that the location was Soquel Creek, but it could have been Aptos Creek.
Enroll in the Right Paralegal School near Aptos CA
Choosing the ideal paralegal educational program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed 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 Aptos home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you decide to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each school and make your final selection. And with the right training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Aptos CA.
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