How to Choose a Paralegal Certificate Program near Clayton California
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Clayton CA and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it’s essential that you find the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational options are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students begin by trying to find paralegal schools within driving range of their Clayton homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school should be taken into consideration as well. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you ought 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 take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational 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 basically both fill the same job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help attorneys in Clayton CA with a diverse array of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their day-to-day tasks might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a Clayton CA paralegal can be involved and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career in Clayton CA as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in California to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Clayton CA.
Online Paralegal Classes
Online paralegal programs have become more common and may be an excellent alternative for students in Clayton CA searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to individuals who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online schools can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee 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 highly regarded agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the right choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing Clayton CA area schools. But because there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial factors to research also, 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 programs you are researching 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 select need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Clayton CA law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the Clayton CA paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, 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 law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also provide a means for students to start creating contacts within the Clayton CA legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with California legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws vary from state to state, it may be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the area where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to first look at those colleges that are within your Clayton CA local area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help minimize part of the cost, so make sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Clayton CA. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Clayton CA, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in provides that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making-up missed classes due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Clayton CA?
In 1857, the town of Clayton was laid out and founded by Joel Henry Clayton (1812–1872) and his two younger brothers. Clayton was born in Bugsworth, now Buxworth, in the United Kingdom, and emigrated to the United States in 1837. After years in other states he settled down with his wife Margaret (1820–1908) at his town at the foot of Mount Diablo, where he and his family prospered. Clayton was named after Joel Henry Clayton, although only by the flip of a coin. Joel Clayton and Charles Rhine cofounded the town, and each wanted to name it after himself. If Charles had won it would have become Rhinesville, but Joel Clayton won. Joel and his wife Margaret both died in Clayton, and were buried in Live Oak Cemetery in what is now Concord, CA.
Clayton prospered during the coal mining boom in eastern Contra Costa County. The post office opened in 1861. Following a previous incorporation attempt in 1960, Clayton incorporated in 1964  in order to stave off an annexation attempt in 1963 of the Cardinet Glen neighborhood by nearby Concord. After steady expansion during the 1970s to the east and west from its original boundaries, Clayton's land area more than doubled in 1987 to near its present-day boundaries with the annexations of the Dana Hills/Dana Ridge and Clayton Wood subdivisions, as well as the former Keller Ranch property that was developed during the 1990s with the Oakhurst Country Club.
On September 8, 2013, fire broke out on Mount Diablo. Called the Morgan Fire, it started at the mercury mine area of Morgan Territory Road. The fire grew quickly and threatened homes and livestock. Evacuations were ordered for several areas, including Oak Hill Lane and Curry Canyon. It took over 1000 firefighters and eight aircraft to extinguish it. Full containment was announced on September 14, 2013, having burned 1,259 ha (3,111 acres).
The public schools of which the minors of Clayton attend include: Mt. Diablo Elementary School, Highlands Elementary School, Diablo View Middle School, Pine Hollow Middle School, and Clayton Valley Charter High School.
Enroll in the Ideal Paralegal Certificate Program near Clayton CA
Enrolling in the best paralegal training program is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Clayton home. Paralegal education programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Various kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of 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 examine each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Clayton CA.
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