How to Pick the Right Paralegal Studies Certificate Program near Berkeley California
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Berkeley CA and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive 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 a growing number of educational alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students start by searching for schools within traveling distance of their Berkeley homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be taken into consideration also. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your selection. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill comparable job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Berkeley CA attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their routine tasks may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and rather challenging. On the other hand, 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 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 because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a paralegal in Berkeley CA is by earning a certificate, which can involve just 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. Once you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in California to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded 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 cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Berkeley CA area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can 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 many potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important issues to research as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also get 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 obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Berkeley CA law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Berkeley CA law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Berkeley CA legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with California legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it may be advantageous to choose a paralegal school domiciled in California or the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to initially consider those colleges that are within the Berkeley CA area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. 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 might be obtainable to help minimize part of the expense, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Berkeley CA. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Berkeley CA, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in offers that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family obligations.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Classes
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more common and may be a good option for those searching 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 added benefit, online classes can often be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, 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 receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes 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 Berkeley CA?
If you live near Berkeley 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.
Berkeley (/ˈbɜːrkli/ BURK-lee) is a city on the east shore of San Francisco Bay in northern Alameda County, California. It is named after the 18th-century Irish bishop and philosopher George Berkeley. It borders the cities of Oakland and Emeryville to the south and the city of Albany and the unincorporated community of Kensington to the north. Its eastern border with Contra Costa County generally follows the ridge of the Berkeley Hills. The 2010 census recorded a population of 112,580.
Berkeley is home to the oldest campus in the University of California system, the University of California, Berkeley, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which is managed and operated by the University. It also has the Graduate Theological Union, one of the largest religious studies institutions in the world. Berkeley is considered one of the most socially liberal cities in the United States.
The site of today's City of Berkeley was the territory of the Chochenyo/Huchiun band of the Ohlone people when the first Europeans arrived. Evidence of their existence in the area include pits in rock formations, which they used to grind acorns, and a shellmound, now mostly leveled and covered up, along the shoreline of San Francisco Bay at the mouth of Strawberry Creek. Other artifacts were discovered in the 1950s in the downtown area during remodeling of a commercial building, near the upper course of the creek.
School For Legal Assistant Berkeley CA
Enrolling in the best legal assistant training program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about School For Legal Assistant. But as we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Berkeley home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you elect to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to review each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Berkeley CA.
Other California Locations That May Be Of Interest
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