How to Choose a Paralegal School near Brentwood California
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Brentwood CA and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational options are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students start by trying to find paralegal schools within commuting range of their Brentwood homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you ought to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be taken into account also. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your choice. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill the same 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 help attorneys in Brentwood CA with a diverse array of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their routine tasks might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a Brentwood CA paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since 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 otherwise.
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 requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career in Brentwood CA as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which may take just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in California to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Brentwood CA.
Online Paralegal Training
Paralegal online programs have become more available and can be an excellent alternative for individuals in Brentwood CA searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online classes can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the process of assessing Brentwood CA area schools. But since there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other crucial aspects to think about as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Brentwood CA law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the Brentwood CA paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer 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 present an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Brentwood CA legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with California legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary among states, it may be a good idea to choose a paralegal school located in the state where you plan to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to first investigate those colleges that are within your Brentwood CA local region.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be available to help reduce part of the expense, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Brentwood CA. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Brentwood CA, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in offers that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Brentwood CA?
Brentwood is a city in Contra Costa County, California, United States. It is located in the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area. The population is 51,481 as of 2010, an increase of 121 percent from 23,302 at the 2000 census.
Brentwood began as a community in the late 19th century, and still is known throughout the Bay Area for its agricultural products, primarily its cherries, corn and peaches. Due to urban sprawl many of the old farms and orchards have been replaced by suburban developments since 1990. Brentwood is increasingly residential, with the rate of population growth in the triple digits during the 1990s and 69% from 2000 through 2005.
Brentwood was originally laid out on land donated from property owned by John Marsh, an East Contra Costa County pioneer who acquired Rancho Los Meganos, the land grant that Brentwood is built upon, in 1837 from Jose Noriega. Marsh was one of the wealthiest men in California and was instrumental in its becoming independent from Mexico and part of the United States. His letters extolling the potential for agriculture in California were published in newspapers throughout the East. They resulted in the first wagon trains to California. Marsh encouraged this, and allowed new arrivals to stay on his ranch until they could get settled. Rancho Los Meganos became the terminus of the California Trail. Brentwood was named after Marsh's ancestral home, the town of Brentwood in the County of Essex, England.
Balfour, Guthrie & Co., a British investment company, purchased the John Marsh ranch in 1910. The company invested heavily in other California agricultural properties as well. In 1910, it built the Brentwood Hotel at Oak Street and Brentwood Boulevard, across from the railroad station. This replaced an earlier hotel on the same site that had burned down in 1903. The hotel was razed in 1967, and replaced by a service station.
Enroll in the Right Paralegal Certificate Program near Brentwood CA
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal degree program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Brentwood residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Different kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you elect to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to review each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate training you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Brentwood CA.
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