How to Select the Right Paralegal Studies Degree Program near Barstow California
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Barstow CA and start your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic choices are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by trying to find schools within traveling range of their Barstow homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be taken into account as well. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your decision. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold the same job positions and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Barstow CA lawyers with a wide range of job duties, such as 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. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their regular tasks might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and very demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training 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 academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a paralegal in Barstow CA is by obtaining a certificate, which may require just 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in California to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will discuss 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 Studies Programs
Now that 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 offered at community and junior colleges in the Barstow CA area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical factors to consider as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Barstow CA law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Barstow CA law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also present an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Barstow CA legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with California legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it might be a good idea to select a paralegal school domiciled in California or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to develop relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to first look at those schools that are within the Barstow CA area.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. 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 also. Financial aid may be accessible to help reduce part of the cost, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Barstow CA. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Barstow CA, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you choose provides that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Training
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more common and can be a good alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to students who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum 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 respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Barstow CA?
If you live near Barstow 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.
Barstow is a major transportation center for the Inland Empire. Several major highways including Interstate 15, Interstate 40, California State Route 58, and U.S. Route 66 converge in the city. It is the site of a large rail classification yard, belonging to the BNSF Railway. The Union Pacific Railroad also runs through town using trackage rights on BNSF's main line to Daggett 10 miles (16 km) east, from where it heads to Salt Lake City and the BNSF heads to Chicago. Barstow is about 15 miles (24 km) from Yermo, 30 miles (48 km) from Victorville, 62 miles (100 km) from Baker, California and 114 miles (183 km) from Primm, Nevada. Barstow serves as a midway point for drivers traveling between Los Angeles, California (120 miles (190 km) southwest) and Las Vegas, Nevada (150 miles (240 km) northeast).
The settlement of Barstow began in the late 1830s in the Mormon Corridor. Every fall and winter, as the weather cooled, the rain produced new grass growth and replenished the water sources in the Mojave Desert. People, goods and animal herds would move from New Mexico and later Utah to Los Angeles, along the Old Spanish Trail from Santa Fe, or after 1848, on the Mormon Road from Salt Lake City. Trains of freight wagons traveled back to Salt Lake City and other points in the interior. These travelers followed the course of the Mojave River, watering and camping at Fish Ponds on its south bank (west of Nebo Center) or 3.625 miles up river on the north bank, at a riverside grove of willows and cottonwoods, festooned with wild grapes, called Grapevines (later the site of North Barstow). In 1859, the Mojave Road followed a route was established from Los Angeles to Fort Mojave through Grapevines that linked eastward with the Beale Wagon Road across northern New Mexico Territory to Santa Fe.
Indian troubles with the Paiute, Mojave and Chemehuevi tribes followed and from 1860 Camp Cady, a U.S. Army post 20 miles (32 km) east of Barstow, was occupied sporadically until 1864, then permanently, by soldiers occupying other posts on the Mojave Road or patrolling in the region until 1871. Trading posts were established at Grapevines and Fish Ponds that supplied travelers on the roads and increasingly the miners that came into the Mohave Desert after the end of hostilities with the native people.
Universities That Offer Paralegal Degrees Barstow CA
Selecting the best paralegal certificate school is an essential 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 Universities That Offer Paralegal Degrees. But as we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Barstow residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Various types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you elect to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to evaluate each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Barstow CA.
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