How to Pick a Paralegal School near Arroyo Grande California
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Arroyo Grande CA and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students begin by looking for paralegal schools within traveling range of their Arroyo Grande homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school should be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist attorneys in Arroyo Grande CA with a diverse array of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but some of their daily activities may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a Arroyo Grande CA paralegal can be complicated and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career in Arroyo Grande CA as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may require 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 obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in California to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Arroyo Grande CA.
Paralegal Online Schools
Online paralegal schools have become more available and can be an excellent option for those in Arroyo Grande CA searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to those who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online schools can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a respected organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can start the process of assessing Arroyo Grande CA area schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important issues to consider as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Arroyo Grande CA law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the Arroyo Grande CA paralegal schools 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 school you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several law offices 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 among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while attending school. They can also offer a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Arroyo Grande CA legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with California legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary among states, it might be beneficial to select a paralegal school located in the state where you plan to work after graduation. Also, it will be important to establish relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially look at those schools that are within your Arroyo Grande CA local area.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be available to help reduce part of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Arroyo Grande CA. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Arroyo Grande CA, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you choose makes available that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Arroyo Grande CA?
Arroyo Grande, California
The first Europeans to see this stretch of coast were the crew of Portuguese explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, working in the service of Spain. The Spanish Portolá expedition was the first European visit by land, passing through the area on September 4, 1769. When Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa was established nearby, the Portolà trail became part of the road connecting the 21 Spanish missions (today called El Camino Real). Later, agricultural activities expanded into the area. The Arroyo Grande Valley was found to have particularly fertile ground and was given the name meaning "wide riverbed" in Spanish.
Francis Ziba Branch, originally from New York, saw the area on a hunting expedition during the period when California was part of Mexico. Branch married María Manuela Carlón, and this marriage entitled Branch to file a claim for a Mexican land grant. In 1836 he, his wife, and baby son moved onto Rancho Santa Manuela. They were managing a successful cattle ranching operation when California became a U.S. territory, and then a U.S. state. But some years later they suffered financial difficulties during a drought when many cattle died. They sold off smaller parcels of land to settlers.
In 1862, the San Luis Obispo Board of Supervisors established the township of Arroyo Grande. Businesses developed along a road called Branch Street to serve local agriculture. A railroad depot was built in 1882. The city of Arroyo Grande was incorporated on July 10, 1911.
Arroyo Grande experienced rapid growth in the 1970s and 1980s, partially due to the expansion of the wastewater treatment plant, under an EPA Clean Water Grant, that removed a growth constraint. This federal grant program required preparation of an Environmental Impact Report, which provided much of the initial environmental database for Arroyo Grande. Arroyo Grande is located in a coastal ecosystem within the California floristic province, and the native habitats include coast live oak woodland, central coastal scrub, willow and mixed riparian along Arroyo Grande Creek and numerous tributaries, native bunch-grass grassland, coastal prairie, dunes and intertidal zone, and non-native and agricultural areas.
Select the Right Paralegal Training near Arroyo Grande CA
Enrolling in the best paralegal training program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Arroyo Grande home. Paralegal training programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you choose to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to review each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Arroyo Grande CA.
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