How to Pick the Right Paralegal Certificate Program near Avenal California
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Avenal 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 get the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic choices are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Avenal homes. Of those choices, they search for 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 must take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program must be taken into account also. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold the same job positions and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Avenal CA lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their everyday tasks can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Avenal CA is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and receive a certification. Although 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 as well. Some of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
What to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Avenal CA area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant issues to research as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school 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 may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Avenal CA law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you pick 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 quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Avenal CA law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind 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 give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Avenal CA legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with California legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it might be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in California or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be important to build relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to first look at those colleges that are within the Avenal CA region.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be available to help offset part of the expense, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Avenal CA. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Avenal CA, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in provides that option. Finally, find out what the process is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Schools
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more prevalent and can be an excellent option for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to those who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss 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 certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Avenal CA?
If you live near Avenal 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.
Avenal is a city in Kings County, California, United States. Avenal is located 35 miles (56 km) southwest of Hanford, at an elevation of 807 ft (246 m). It is part of the Hanford–Corcoran Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA Code 25260), which encompasses all of Kings County. In area, it is the largest city in Kings County. The Zip Code for this community is 93204, and telephone numbers use the sequence (559) 386-XXXX. The population was 15,505 in the 2010 census, which includes inmates at the Avenal State Prison, the first prison actively solicited by a community in the state of California. Many of the remaining residents largely either work at the prison or in the agriculture industry. The prison provides approximately 1,000 jobs to residents. The California Department of Finance estimated that Avenal's population was 13,159 on January 1, 2015. As of that date, Avenal State Prison held 4,165 inmates, which was about 32% of the total population of Avenal. Inmates are counted as city residents by both the United States Census and the California Department of Finance.
The City of Avenal was named by Spanish soldiers and explorers. In Spanish, "avena" means oats, and "avenal" means oatfield. This area was covered with wild oats, "waist high," that looked like golden silk and covered the Kettleman Plains.
Early American settlers arrived in the Kettleman Hills during the 1850s with dreams of raising cattle and farming. Oil, however, would bring fame, fortune and people to the area. Native Americans had always known oil was in the hills, with natural seepage around Coalinga and Tar Canyon. The first Kettleman Hills well was drilled in 1900, followed by countless unproductive efforts.
ABA Approved Paralegal Online Avenal CA
Enrolling in the right paralegal studies certificate school is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about ABA Approved Paralegal Online. But 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 Avenal residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Different kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you choose to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to review each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Avenal CA.
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