How to Find a Paralegal Program near Westminster California
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Westminster CA and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you locate the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students begin by looking for paralegal schools within driving distance of their Westminster residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school should be taken into consideration as well. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns 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 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 basically both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, 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 assist attorneys in Westminster CA with a wide range of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is typically billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their everyday tasks may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a Westminster CA paralegal can be involved and rather 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 proceeding. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos 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 preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career in Westminster CA as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve just 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in California to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded 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 discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Westminster CA.
Online Paralegal Certificates
Online paralegal programs have become more available and may be a good option for students in Westminster CA looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to individuals who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online classes can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss 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 certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can start the process of assessing Westminster CA area schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant factors to think about also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Westminster CA law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the Westminster CA paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is an excellent 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 contact a few law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Westminster CA legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid 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 well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it might be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be important to develop relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the area where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to initially investigate those schools that are within your Westminster CA local area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be accessible to help minimize part of the expense, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Westminster CA. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these added costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Westminster CA, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you choose offers that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Westminster CA?
Westminster is a city in northern Orange County, California. It is known for a large number of Vietnamese refugees who immigrated to the city during the 1980s, settling largely in the area now officially named Little Saigon, and the city is unofficially known as the "capital" of overseas Vietnamese with 36,058 Vietnamese Americans and at 40.2% (2010), the highest municipal prevalence of Vietnamese Americans.
Westminster is landlocked and bordered by Seal Beach on the west, by Garden Grove on the north and east, and by Huntington Beach and Fountain Valley on the south. Santa Ana, the county seat of Orange County, is right next to Westminster on the east but is divided by a small part of Garden Grove.
Westminster was founded in 1870 by Rev. Lemuel Webber as a Presbyterian temperance colony. The name is derived from the Westminster Assembly of 1643, which established the basic tenets of the Presbyterian faith. During the early years of its history, farmers refused to harvest grapes since they associated grapes with alcohol.
Westminster was incorporated in 1957, at which time it had 10,755 residents. Originally, the city was named Tri-City because it was the amalgamation of three cities: Westminster, Barber City, and Midway City. Midway City ultimately refused incorporation, leaving only Barber City to be absorbed into the newly incorporated Westminster. The former Barber City was located in the western portion of the current city of Westminster.
Enroll in the Best Paralegal Training near Westminster CA
Selecting the right paralegal educational program is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Westminster home. Paralegal education programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Various kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you decide to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to examine each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Westminster CA.
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