How to Choose the Right Paralegal School near Cathedral City California
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Cathedral City CA and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students begin by searching for schools within commuting distance of their Cathedral City homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be taken into account as well. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill the same 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 separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Cathedral City CA lawyers with a wide range of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but some of their day-to-day tasks can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Cathedral City CA is by earning a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. After you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in California to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your employment 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Cathedral City CA area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important aspects to research as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a recognized organization 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 distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Cathedral City CA law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Cathedral City CA law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Cathedral City CA legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools 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 undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid 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 highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it might be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school located in California or the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the community where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to first consider those colleges that are within the Cathedral City CA region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be available to help reduce some of the expense, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Cathedral City CA. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, some of these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Cathedral City CA, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you select offers that option. Finally, find out what the process is for making-up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Degrees
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more common and may be an excellent alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to those who keep working while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Cathedral City CA?
If you live near Cathedral City 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.
Cathedral City, California
Cathedral City, colloquially known as "Cat City", is a city in Riverside County, California. Its population was 51,200 at the 2010 census. Located between Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage, it has the second largest population of the nine cities of Coachella Valley (Palm Springs area) in Southern California, after Indio.
The city's name derives from the "Cathedral Canyon" to the south of the town, so named in 1850 by Colonel Henry Washington because of its rock formations that are reminiscent of a cathedral. The city started as a housing subdivision in 1925, but it was not incorporated until 1981, and it has grown significantly in population since then.
Cathedral City started a downtown revitalization program in the late 1990s, that was substantially completed by 2005. A new city hall was built, as were the IMAX/Mary Pickford movie theater complex, and a total of 130 acres (0.53 km2) of new or remodeled stores.
Legal Assistant Schools Cathedral City CA
Selecting the best paralegal degree program is a vital 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 Legal Assistant Schools. But as we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Cathedral City home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Different kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you choose to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to assess each school and make your final decision. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Cathedral City CA.
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