How to Choose a Paralegal Degree Program near Claremont California
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Claremont CA and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it’s essential that you find the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students start by looking for paralegal schools within driving distance of their Claremont homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program should be taken into account too. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional 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 basically both hold the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help attorneys in Claremont CA with a wide range of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their daily activities can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a Claremont CA paralegal can be involved and very demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually 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 start your career in Claremont CA as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which can take just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in California to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Claremont CA.
Online Paralegal Certificates
Paralegal online schools have become more available and can be an excellent alternative for students in Claremont CA searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to those who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating Claremont CA area schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other crucial aspects to think about also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may 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 education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Claremont CA law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the Claremont CA paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember 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 provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while attending school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Claremont CA legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with California legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary among states, it might be a good idea to choose a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you want to work after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to create relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to first look at those schools that are within your Claremont CA local region.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be obtainable to help offset part of the cost, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Claremont CA. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Claremont CA, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making-up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Claremont CA?
Claremont (/ˈklɛərmɒnt/) is a city on the eastern edge of Los Angeles County, California, United States, 30.3 miles (48.8 km) east of downtown Los Angeles. It is in the Pomona Valley, at the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, and has a population, as of the 2015 United States Census estimate, of 36,283 people.
Claremont is known as the home of the Claremont Colleges and other educational institutions, and for its tree-lined streets with numerous historic buildings. In July 2007, it was rated by CNN/Money magazine as the fifth best place to live in the United States, and was the highest rated place in California on the list. It was also named the best suburb in the West by Sunset Magazine in 2016, which described it as a "small city that blends worldly sophistication with small-town appeal." In 2018, Niche rated Claremont as the 17th best place to live in the Los Angeles area out of 658 communities it evaluated, based on crime, cost of living, job opportunities, and local amenities. Due to its large number of trees and residents with doctoral degrees, as well as its proximity to the renowned Claremont Colleges, it is sometimes referred to as "The City of Trees and PhDs."
The city is primarily residential, with a significant portion of its commercial activity located in "The Village," a popular collection of street-front small stores, boutiques, art galleries, offices, and restaurants adjacent to and west of the Claremont Colleges. The Village was expanded in 2007, adding a controversial multi-use development that includes a cinema, a boutique hotel, retail space, offices, and a parking structure on the site of an old citrus packing plant west of Indian Hill Boulevard.
Claremont has been a winner of the National Arbor Day Association's Tree City USA award for 22 consecutive years. When the city incorporated in 1907, local citizens started what has become the city's tree-planting tradition. Claremont is one of the few remaining places in North America with American Elm trees that have not been exposed to Dutch elm disease. The stately trees line Indian Hill Boulevard in the vicinity of the city's Memorial Park.
Select the Right Paralegal Program near Claremont CA
Choosing the right paralegal degree program is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Claremont home. Paralegal education programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Different kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you elect to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to assess each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Claremont CA.
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