How to Choose a Paralegal Degree Program near Arcadia California
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Arcadia CA and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it’s essential that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students start by trying to find paralegal schools within traveling distance of their Arcadia residences. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be taken into consideration also. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill the same job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist attorneys in Arcadia CA with a wide range of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but some of their routine activities may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a Arcadia CA paralegal can be complex and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career in Arcadia CA as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may require just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be acquired at numerous 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 degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in California to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Arcadia CA.
Paralegal Online Degrees
Online paralegal schools have become more popular and may be an excellent alternative for individuals in Arcadia CA looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to individuals who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can often be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized 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 education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a respected organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the process of assessing Arcadia CA area schools. But because there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other crucial aspects to research as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on 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 demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Arcadia CA law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the Arcadia CA paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while attending school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Arcadia CA legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with California legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws differ from state to state, it might be a good idea to select a paralegal school located in the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially investigate those schools that are within your Arcadia CA local area.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be available to help offset some of the cost, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Arcadia CA. Of course if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Arcadia CA, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you choose offers that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Arcadia CA?
Arcadia is a city in Los Angeles County, California, United States located about 13 miles (21 km) northeast of downtown Los Angeles in the San Gabriel Valley and at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains. It is the site of the Santa Anita Park racetrack and home to the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden. The city had a population of 56,364 at the 2010 census, up from 53,248 at the 2000 census. The city is named after Arcadia, Greece.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 11.1 square miles (29 km2). 10.9 square miles (28 km2) of it is land and 0.2 square miles (0.52 km2) of it (1.87%) is water.
The 2010 United States Census reported that Arcadia had a population of 56,364. The population density was 5,062.5 people per square mile (1,954.6/km²). The racial makeup of Arcadia was 33,353 (59.2%) Asian, 18,191 (32.3%) White, (25.7% Non-Hispanic White), 681 (1.2%) African American, 186 (0.3%) Native American, 16 (0.03%) Pacific Islander, 2,352 (4.2%) from other races, and 1,585 (2.8%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 6,799 persons (12.1%).
The Census reported that 55,502 people (98.5% of the population) lived in households, 639 (1.1%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 223 (0.4%) were institutionalized. There were 19,592 households, out of which 7,336 (37.4%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 11,703 (59.7%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 2,437 (12.4%) had a female householder with no husband present, 865 (4.4%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 469 (2.4%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 92 (0.5%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 3,855 households (19.7%) were made up of individuals and 1,926 (9.8%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.83. There were 15,005 families (76.6% of all households); the average family size was 3.26.
Select the Best Paralegal Degree Program near Arcadia CA
Enrolling in the best paralegal educational program is a vital first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Arcadia home. Paralegal education programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Different kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you decide to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to assess each school and make your final decision. And with the ideal education you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Arcadia CA.
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