How to Find the Right Paralegal Studies Program near Arcata California
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Arcata CA and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you locate the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of 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? A number of prospective students start by trying to find schools within driving range of their Arcata homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be taken into consideration also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill comparable job roles and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, 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 help Arcata CA attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally 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 abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their daily activities might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main 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 alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Arcata CA is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in California to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some 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 paralegal certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Arcata CA area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical aspects to research as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Arcata CA law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Arcata CA law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also present an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Arcata CA legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with California legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary among states, it may be a good idea to enroll in a legal assistant school located in California or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to first investigate those colleges that are within the Arcata CA area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help reduce part of the expense, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Arcata CA. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Arcata CA, make certain 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. Last, inquire what the process is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Schools
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more available and can be an excellent alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to individuals who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online programs can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Arcata CA?
If you live near Arcata 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.
Arcata, originally Union Town or Union, is a city adjacent to the Arcata Bay (northern) portion of Humboldt Bay in Humboldt County, California, United States. At the 2010 census, Arcata's population was 17,231. Arcata, located 280 miles (450 km) north of San Francisco (via Highway 101), is home to Humboldt State University. Arcata is also the location of the Arcata Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Land Management, which is responsible for the administration of natural resources, lands and mineral programs, including the Headwaters Forest, on approximately 200,000 acres of public land in Northwestern California.
Arcata has been notably progressive in its political makeup, and was the first city in the United States to elect a majority of its city council members from the Green Party. As a result of the progressive majority, Arcata capped the number of chain restaurants allowed in the city. Arcata was also the first municipality to ban the growth of any type of Genetically Modified Organism within city limits, with exceptions for research and educational purposes.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 11.0 square miles (28.5 km2), of which 9.1 square miles (23.6 km2) is land and 1.9 square miles (4.9 km2) (17.25%) is water.
Colleges That Offer Paralegal Studies Arcata CA
Selecting the right paralegal studies degree school 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 Colleges That Offer Paralegal Studies. But as we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Arcata residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you decide to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to examine each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right training you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Arcata CA.
Other California Locations That May Be Of Interest
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