How to Pick a Paralegal Degree Program near Big Bear Lake California
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Big Bear Lake CA and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students start by searching for paralegal schools within driving distance of their Big Bear Lake residences. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into consideration also. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your selection. But first, let’s have a look at exactly 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 for the most part both fill the same job positions and functions, 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 attorneys in Big Bear Lake CA with a wide range of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but some of their routine activities might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a Big Bear Lake CA paralegal can be complicated and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to start your career in Big Bear Lake CA as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may involve as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want 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. 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Big Bear Lake CA.
Paralegal Online Degrees
Paralegal online schools have become more popular and can be a good option for individuals in Big Bear Lake CA searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to individuals who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating Big Bear Lake CA area schools. But since there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. 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 previously covered, there are other crucial issues to consider also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Big Bear Lake CA law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the Big Bear Lake CA paralegal programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, 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 a few law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Big Bear Lake CA legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success 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 confirms that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that 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 graduation. In addition, it will be important to create relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to first investigate those schools that are within your Big Bear Lake CA local region.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be obtainable to help minimize some of the cost, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Big Bear Lake CA. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Big Bear Lake CA, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you select offers that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Big Bear Lake CA?
Big Bear Lake, California
Big Bear Lake is a small city in San Bernardino County, California, located in the San Bernardino Mountains along the south shore of Big Bear Lake, and surrounded by the San Bernardino National Forest. The city is located about 25 miles (40 km) northeast of the city of San Bernardino, and immediately west of the unincorporated town of Big Bear City. The population was approximately 5,019 at the 2010 census, down from 5,438 at the 2000 census. Being a popular year-round resort destination, however, the actual number of people staying in or visiting the greater Big Bear Valley area regularly surges to over 100,000 during many weekends of the year.
Big Bear Lake was inhabited by the indigenous Serrano Indians for over 2,000 years before it was explored by Benjamin Wilson and his party. Once populated by only the natives and the grizzly bears, from which the area received its name, the population of the Big Bear Valley grew rapidly during the Southern California Gold Rush from 1861 to 1912. Grizzly bears were not found in the region after 1908. Today, there are black bears in the region since their introduction in 1933, and they are sometimes sighted in residential areas.
A trip to Big Bear Lake from San Bernardino took two days on horse-drawn coaches. Kirk Phillips was a local who took a trip to New York City and saw the world's first bus line. This inspired him to create the world's second bus line from San Bernardino to Big Bear Valley using White trucks with several rows of seats. This made it possible for the villages to grow and for Big Bear Lake to become the first mountain recreation area in Southern California.
Many people traveled to enjoy recreation on the lake, however, another major draw was the natural hot spring. Emile Jesserun bought 40 acres (16 ha) of land that included the hot spring and built the first major resort in Big Bear, the Pan Hot Springs Hotel, in 1921.
Select the Best Paralegal Training near Big Bear Lake CA
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal degree program is a crucial 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 on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Big Bear Lake residence. Paralegal training programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Various kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, 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 impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you elect to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to assess each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Big Bear Lake CA.
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