How to Choose a Paralegal Training Program near Yucaipa California
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Yucaipa CA and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably know, 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 so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by looking for schools within traveling range of their Yucaipa residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program must be considered as well. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your choice. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill the same job roles 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 category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Yucaipa CA attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their routine activities might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Yucaipa CA is by earning a certificate, which may involve just six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in California to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Yucaipa CA area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial issues to think about as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a reputable 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 targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Yucaipa CA law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Yucaipa CA law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start creating contacts within the Yucaipa CA legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with California legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from one state to another, it may be advantageous to select a paralegal school located in California or the state where you plan to work after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to first consider those colleges that are within the Yucaipa CA region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help minimize some of the expense, so make sure to talk to the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Yucaipa CA. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, some of these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Yucaipa CA, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select provides that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Training
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more common and may be a good option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online programs can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Yucaipa CA?
If you live near Yucaipa CA or perhaps you are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
Yucaipa (/juːˈkaɪpə/ yoo-KY-pə) is a city located 10 miles (16 km) east of San Bernardino, in San Bernardino County, California, United States. The population was 51,367 at the 2010 census, up from 41,207 at the 2000 census. According to San Bernardino County, the projected population in 2012 is 58,187.
Yucaipa has the distinction of being the former, longtime home of a large population of Serrano Indians and was also known for being the home base of what is now Stater Bros. Markets (founded in 1936, and now headquartered in San Bernardino).
Yucaipa City is located in the southwestern United States, in southeastern California, approximately 80 miles (130 km) east of Los Angeles. This city is approximately 2,600 ft (790 m) above sea level.
Select the Right Paralegal Program near Yucaipa CA
Choosing the ideal paralegal degree program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. 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 Yucaipa home. Paralegal training programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Various types of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, 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. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you elect to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to evaluate each school and make your final selection. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Yucaipa CA.
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