How to Select a Paralegal Program near Wilmington California
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Wilmington CA and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students start by searching for paralegal schools within commuting range of their Wilmington homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers 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 review a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your choice. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional 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 for the most part both hold the same job roles 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 lawyers in Wilmington CA with a wide range of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but some of their regular activities can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a Wilmington CA paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career in Wilmington CA as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in California to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help substantiate 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Wilmington CA.
Online Paralegal Programs
Online paralegal programs have become more common and can be an excellent option for individuals in Wilmington CA looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to individuals who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can often be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a reputable organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the right choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating Wilmington CA area schools. But since there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important aspects to research also, including accreditation and the reputation 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 properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Wilmington CA law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the Wilmington CA paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also provide a means for students to start developing contacts within the Wilmington CA legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with California legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it might be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in the state where you want to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be important to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially look at those colleges that are within your Wilmington CA local area.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember 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 expense, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Wilmington CA. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Wilmington CA, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Wilmington CA?
Wilmington, Los Angeles
Featuring a heavy concentration of industry and the third-largest oil field in the United States, it is considered sparsely populated in comparison with the city as a whole and within the city it is distinguished by its youthful population and high percentage of Latino and foreign-born residents.
Wilmington dates its history back to a 1784 Spanish land grant. It became a separate city in 1863, and it joined the city of Los Angeles in 1909. Places of interest include the headquarters U.S. Army for Southern California and the Drum Barracks built to protect the nascent Los Angeles harbor during the American Civil War.
A total of 53,815 people were living within Wilmington's 9.14 square miles, according to the 2010 U.S. census—averaging 5,887 people per square mile, among the lowest population densities in the city as a whole. The median age was 28. The percentages of people from birth through age 34 were among the county's highest. Population was estimated at 54,512 in 2008.
Wilmington is not considered very diverse ethnically, with a diversity index of 0.245. In 2000, Latinos made up 86.6% of the population, while whites were at 6.4%, Asians at 4.8%, blacks at 2.6% and others at 1.7%. Mexico and Guatemala were the most common places of birth for the 44.5% of the residents who were born abroad, considered a high percentage of foreign-born when compared with the city and the county as a whole.
Enroll in the Ideal Paralegal College near Wilmington CA
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal degree program is a crucial 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 participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Wilmington home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Various types of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you choose to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each program and make your final selection. And with the right education you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Wilmington CA.
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