How to Pick a Paralegal School near Atascadero California
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Atascadero CA and start your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it’s essential that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic choices are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students begin by looking for paralegal schools within traveling distance of their Atascadero homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program must be considered as well. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, 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 lawyers in Atascadero CA with a diverse array of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day activities may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a Atascadero CA paralegal can be complex and very demanding. On the other hand, 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 confined to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. 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 alone.
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. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career in Atascadero CA as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can take as little as six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in California to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Atascadero CA.
Online Paralegal Training
Online paralegal schools have become more available and can be a good alternative for individuals in Atascadero CA searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to those who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online programs can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating Atascadero CA area schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant factors to consider also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Atascadero CA law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the Atascadero CA paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also offer a means for students to start creating contacts within the Atascadero CA legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with California legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws vary from one state to another, it may be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you plan to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to build relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially consider those colleges that are within your Atascadero CA local region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help reduce some of the cost, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Atascadero CA. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Atascadero CA, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in offers that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Atascadero CA?
Atascadero is a city in San Luis Obispo County, California, about equidistant from Los Angeles and San Francisco on U.S. Route 101. Atascadero is part of the San Luis Obispo - Atascadero - Paso Robles metropolitan area. Atascadero is farther inland than most other cities in the county, and as a result, usually experiences warmer, drier summers, and cooler winters than other nearby cities such as San Luis Obispo and Pismo Beach. The main freeway through town is the US 101. The nearby State Routes 41 and 46 provide access to the Pacific Coast and the California Central Valley.
Atascadero is a Spanish word loosely translated as bog, from the verb "atascar" which means to become stuck or hindered. Also, in the Chumash language, Atascadero translates into a place of much water.
The area was originally home to the Salinan Indians. In the half century between 1769 and 1823 the Spanish Franciscans established 21 missions along the California coast, including the nearby Mission San Miguel Arcángel, and Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa. In 1821, Mexico won its independence from Spain, and California became a Mexican province. In 1833, the Mexican government secularized the mission lands. Mexican Governor Juan Alvarado granted Rancho Atascadero to Trifon Garcia in 1842, and Pio Pico granted Pedro Estrada Rancho Asuncion in 1845. Patrick Washington Murphy held ownership of 61,000 acres (25,000 ha) at one time.
Edward Gardner Lewis, a magazine publisher from the East, founded Atascadero in 1913 as a utopian, planned colony. He had previously created such a community, at University City, Missouri. After purchasing the Atascadero Ranch in 1912, Lewis put together a group of investors, paid J.H. Henry $37.50 per acre ($93/ha), and celebrated acquisition of the ranch on July 4, 1913. As investors came to homestead the land that they had bought with their down payments, the area was transformed into a "tent city" with tents situated on land now occupied by Century Plaza and Bank of America. Lewis employed the services of experts in agriculture, engineering and city planning to develop his dream colony for the anticipated 30,000 residents. In 1914 the land was surveyed and subdivided. Thousands of acres of orchards were planted, a water system was installed, and construction began on an 18 mi (29 km) road (now Highway 41 west) through the Santa Lucia Mountains to the ocean (Morro Bay), where Lewis built cottages and a beachfront hotel called the Cloisters.
Select the Right Paralegal Training near Atascadero CA
Selecting the right paralegal educational program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Atascadero residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you decide to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to examine each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Atascadero CA.
Other Cool Cities in California
Business Results 1 - 10 of 60