How to Select the Right Paralegal School near Belmont California
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Belmont CA and start your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by looking for schools within commuting distance of their Belmont homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be taken into account also. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your decision. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Belmont CA lawyers with a wide range of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is normally billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their regular tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys 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 involved and rather 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 limited to administrative or clerical tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Belmont CA is by earning a certificate, which may require as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. After you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in California to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 earning a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Belmont CA area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many 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 critical aspects to think about 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 schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Belmont CA law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, 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 Belmont CA law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while still in school. They can also present a means for students to start creating contacts within the Belmont CA legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with California legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it may be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in California or the state where you want to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to first investigate those colleges that are within the Belmont CA area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential earned and the length 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 might be accessible to help minimize part of the cost, so be sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Belmont CA. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced 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 solely attend weekend or evening classes near Belmont CA, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you enroll in offers that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Schools
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more popular and may be a good option for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to individuals who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can often be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the ideal option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Belmont CA?
If you live near Belmont 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.
Belmont is a city in San Mateo County in the U.S. state of California. It is in the San Francisco Bay Area, on the San Francisco Peninsula halfway between San Francisco and San Jose. It was originally part of Rancho de las Pulgas, for which one of its main roads, the Alameda de las Pulgas, is named. The city was incorporated in 1926. Its population was 25,835 at the 2010 census.
Ralston Hall is a historic landmark built by Bank of California founder, William Chapman Ralston, on the campus of Notre Dame de Namur University. It was built around a villa formerly owned by Count Cipriani, an Italian aristocrat. The locally famous "Waterdog Lake" is also located in the foothills and highlands of Belmont.
One of two surviving structures from the Panama-Pacific International Exposition is on Belmont Avenue (the other is the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco). The building was brought to Belmont by E.D. Swift shortly after the exposition closed in 1915. Swift owned a large amount of land in the area.
Paralegal Online Degree Accredited Belmont CA
Choosing the right legal assistant degree program is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Paralegal Online Degree Accredited. But as we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Belmont home. Paralegal training programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you choose to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to assess each program and make your final selection. And with the right training you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Belmont CA.
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