How to Enroll in the Right Legal Assistant Certificate Program near Atherton California
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Atherton CA and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students begin by searching for schools within traveling range of their Atherton homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be taken into consideration too. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your choice. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Atherton CA lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but some of their routine activities can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, 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 quickest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Atherton CA is by earning a certificate, which can require just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may choose 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 establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 paralegal certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Atherton CA area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly 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 commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial issues to think about as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Atherton CA law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Atherton CA law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Atherton CA legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with California legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it might be a good idea to enroll in a legal assistant school located in California or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to build relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to first look at those colleges that are within the Atherton CA region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be available to help offset part of the expense, so make sure to talk to the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Atherton CA. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, some of these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Atherton CA, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you choose offers that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Degrees
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more common and can be an excellent alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to individuals who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Atherton CA?
If you live near Atherton 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.
Atherton is an incorporated town in San Mateo County, California, United States. Its population was 7,159 as of 2013. In 1990, Atherton was ranked as having the highest per capita income among U.S. towns with a population between 2,500 and 9,999, and it is regularly ranked as the most expensive ZIP Code in the United States.
In 1866, Atherton was known as Fair Oaks, and was a flag stop on the California Coast Line of the Southern Pacific Railroad between San Francisco and San Jose for the convenience of the owners of the large estates who lived north of Menlo Park. The entire area was called Menlo Park. It had been part of the Rancho de las Pulgas that had covered most of the area, which is now southern San Mateo County. There were several attempts to incorporate Fair Oaks, one in 1874 and another in 1911.
In 1923, Menlo Park wished to incorporate its lands to include the Fair Oaks lands. During a meeting of the representatives of the two communities, it became clear to the Fair Oaks property owners that in order to maintain their community as a strictly residential area, they would have to incorporate separately. Both groups rushed to Sacramento but the Fair Oaks committee arrived first. It was at that time they realized that they could not keep the name Fair Oaks, as it was already the name of a town near Sacramento. It was decided to honor Faxon Dean Atherton who had been one of the first property owners in the south peninsula and name the town for him. Atherton was incorporated on September 12, 1923. That same year, in 1923, the Menlo Polo Club was founded in Atherton.
Paralegal Online College Atherton CA
Choosing the best paralegal degree school is an important 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 Online College. But as we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Atherton home. Paralegal education programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Various types of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence 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 elect to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to assess each program and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Atherton CA.
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