How to Pick a Paralegal Degree Program near Atherton California
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Atherton CA and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is among 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 so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students start by trying to find paralegal schools within commuting range of their Atherton homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school should be taken into consideration too. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist lawyers in Atherton CA with a wide range of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day tasks may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a Atherton CA paralegal can be complicated and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career in Atherton CA as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in California to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some 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 school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Atherton CA.
Paralegal Online Certificates
Paralegal online programs have become more prevalent and can be a good option for individuals in Atherton CA searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to those who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the right option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating Atherton CA area schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical aspects to consider also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Atherton CA law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the Atherton CA paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while attending school. They can also provide a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Atherton CA legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer 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 wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with California legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws vary from state to state, it may be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school located in the state where you plan to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially look at those colleges that are within your Atherton CA local region.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be available to help reduce part of the expense, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Atherton CA. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, some of these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Atherton CA, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed due to work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Atherton CA?
Atherton is an incorporated town in San Mateo County, California, United States. Its population was 7,159 as of 2013. In 1990, Atherton was ranked as having the highest per capita income among U.S. towns with a population between 2,500 and 9,999, and it is regularly ranked among the most expensive ZIP Codes in the country.
In 1866, Atherton was known as Fair Oaks, and was a flag stop on the California Coast Line of the Southern Pacific Railroad between San Francisco and San Jose for the convenience of the owners of the large estates who lived north of Menlo Park. The entire area was called Menlo Park. It had been part of the Rancho de las Pulgas that had covered most of the area, which is now southern San Mateo County. There were several attempts to incorporate Fair Oaks, one in 1874 and another in 1911.
In 1923, Menlo Park wished to incorporate its lands to include the Fair Oaks lands. During a meeting of the representatives of the two communities, it became clear to the Fair Oaks property owners that in order to maintain their community as a strictly residential area, they would have to incorporate separately. Both groups rushed to Sacramento but the Fair Oaks committee arrived first. It was at that time they realized that they could not keep the name Fair Oaks, as it was already the name of a town near Sacramento. It was decided to honor Faxon Dean Atherton who had been one of the first property owners in the south peninsula and name the town for him. Atherton was incorporated on September 12, 1923. That same year, in 1923, the Menlo Polo Club was founded in Atherton.
Faxon D. Atherton, a native of Massachusetts, had spent several years in Chile and Hawaii as a trader in tallow, hides and merchandise. His friend and business associate, Thomas Lark, had written to him "there is education available for your children and a dignity of living on landed estates down the San Francisco peninsula (that is) convenient and accessible." Atherton purchased 640 acres (2.6 km2) for ten dollars an acre ($2470/km²) in 1860. His home, Valparaíso Park, was built several years later. It was simple in design and ample for his family of seven children.
Find the Ideal Paralegal Training near Atherton CA
Choosing the best paralegal degree program is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed 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 Atherton residence. Paralegal training programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Various kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you decide to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to review each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal education you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Atherton CA.
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