How to Choose the Right Paralegal Studies Program near Albany California
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Albany CA and start your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students begin by searching for schools within traveling range of their Albany homes. Of those choices, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school should be taken into account also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals 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 belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Albany CA attorneys with a wide range of job functions, such as 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. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their routine tasks might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically 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 fastest means to start your career as a paralegal in Albany CA is by obtaining a certificate, which may take as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in California to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected 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 paralegal certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Albany CA area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must know 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 the majority of prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial factors to think about also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency 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 targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Albany CA law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, 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 call several Albany CA law practices that you may have an interest 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 ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also present a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Albany CA legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent 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 School’s Location? Since laws differ from state to state, it might be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in California or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to first investigate those schools that are within the Albany CA region.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help reduce part of the expense, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Albany CA. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Albany CA, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in provides that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family obligations.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Schools
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more popular and can be an excellent option for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to those who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Albany CA?
If you live near Albany California or perhaps are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
In 1908, a group of local women protested the dumping of Berkeley garbage in their community. Armed with two shotguns and a twenty-two-caliber rifle, they confronted the drivers of the wagons near what is now the corner of San Pablo Avenue and Buchanan Street. The women told the drivers of the horse-drawn garbage wagons to go home, which they did quickly and without complaint. Shortly thereafter, the residents of the town voted to incorporate as the City of Ocean View. In 1909, voters changed the name of the city, primarily to distinguish the city from the adjacent section of Berkeley which had previously been named Ocean View. On a vote of 38 to 6 the city was renamed in honor of Albany, New York, the birthplace of the city's first mayor, Frank Roberts.
Albany is located on the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay, bordering the city of Berkeley to the south and east, and the Contra Costa County cities of El Cerrito and Richmond to the north. Albany's northern and southern borders are defined by two creeks, Codornices Creek on the south and Cerrito Creek on the north. Cerrito Creek takes its name from "El Cerrito de San Antonio", now known as Albany Hill. The hill's unusual location near the bay shore makes it a prominent landmark in the East Bay. The rest of the city is relatively flat by Bay Area standards, except for a small area near the base of the Berkeley Hills.
Albany's waterfront has undergone significant man-made changes; the most prominent landform is now the Albany Bulb, a former garbage landfill jutting out into San Francisco Bay. The bulb was the site of a small art colony and shanty town until it was cleared to turn the area into part of the new Eastshore State Park.
Paralegal Assistant Schools Albany CA
Selecting the right paralegal certificate program is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Paralegal Assistant Schools. But as we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Albany home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Several kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you decide to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to examine each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Albany CA.
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