How to Select a Paralegal Program near Bakersfield California
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Bakersfield CA and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you locate the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic options are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students start by searching for paralegal schools within commuting distance of their Bakersfield residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school must be taken into account as well. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic 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 fill the same job positions and functions, just 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 help lawyers in Bakersfield CA with a wide range of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their regular activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a Bakersfield CA paralegal can be involved and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more apropos 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 preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career in Bakersfield CA as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve as little as 6 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 many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in California to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Bakersfield CA.
Online Paralegal Degrees
Online paralegal schools have become more common and may be a good alternative for those in Bakersfield CA searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to individuals who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing Bakersfield CA area schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to 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 begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important factors to research as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online 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 also. Many Bakersfield CA law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the Bakersfield CA paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Bakersfield CA legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering 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 most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with California legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it might be beneficial to choose a paralegal school located in the state where you want to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the area where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to first investigate those colleges that are within your Bakersfield CA local area.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be accessible to help offset part of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Bakersfield CA. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Bakersfield CA, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you choose provides that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Bakersfield CA?
Bakersfield is a city and the county seat of Kern County, California, United States. It covers about 142 square miles (370 km2) near the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley and the Central Valley region. Bakersfield's population is approximately 380,000, making it the ninth-most populous city in California and the 52nd-most populous city in the nation. The Bakersfield–Delano Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Kern County, had a 2010 census population of 839,631, making it the 62nd largest metropolitan area in the United States. The more built-up urban area that includes Bakersfield and areas immediately around the city, such as East Bakersfield, Oildale and Rosedale, has a population of over 500,000. Bakersfield is a charter city.
The city is a significant hub for both agriculture and oil production. Kern County is the most productive oil-producing county, and the fourth most productive agricultural county (by value) in the United States. Industries include natural gas and other energy extraction, aerospace, mining, petroleum refining, manufacturing, distribution, food processing, and corporate regional offices. The city is also the birthplace of the country music genre known as the Bakersfield sound.
Archaeological evidence indicates the presence of Native American settlements dating back thousands of years. The Yokuts lived in lodges along the branches of the Kern River Delta and hunted antelope, tule elk, deer, bear, fish, and game birds. In 1776, Spanish missionary Father Francisco Garcés became the first European to explore the area. Owing to the remoteness and inaccessibility of the region, however, the Yokuts remained largely isolated until after the Mexican War of Independence, when Mexican settlers began to migrate to the area. Following the discovery of gold in California in 1848, settlers flooded into the San Joaquin Valley. In 1851, gold was discovered along the Kern River in the southern Sierra Nevada, and in 1865, oil was discovered in the valley. The Bakersfield area, once a tule-reed-covered marshland, was first known as Kern Island to the handful of pioneers who built log cabins there in 1860. The area was subject to periodic flooding from the Kern River, which occupied what is now the downtown area, and experienced outbreaks of malaria.
In 1862, disastrous floods swept away the original settlement founded in 1860 by the German-born Christian Bohna. Among those attracted to the area by the California gold rush was Thomas Baker, a lawyer and former colonel in the militia of Ohio, his home state. Baker moved to the banks of the Kern River in 1863, at what became known as Baker's Field, which became a stopover for travelers. By 1870, with a population of 600, what is now known as Bakersfield was becoming the principal town in Kern County.
Select the Right Paralegal Certificate Program near Bakersfield CA
Enrolling in the best paralegal degree program is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Bakersfield home. Paralegal training programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Different types of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you choose to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to assess each program and make your final decision. And with the appropriate training you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Bakersfield CA.
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