How to Find the Right Paralegal Training Program near Woodland Hills California
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Woodland Hills CA and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by searching for schools within driving range of their Woodland Hills homes. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program should be taken into consideration too. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your choice. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially 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 different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Woodland Hills CA lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their routine activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really 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 handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Woodland Hills CA is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in California to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help establish 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 paralegal degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Woodland Hills CA area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical issues to consider also, such as 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 properly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Woodland Hills CA law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Woodland Hills CA law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while attending school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Woodland Hills CA legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with California legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws differ from state to state, it may be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in California or the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the community where you want to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to initially consider those schools that are within the Woodland Hills CA area.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be obtainable to help minimize some of the cost, so make sure to check with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Woodland Hills CA. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Woodland Hills CA, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in offers that option. Finally, inquire what the procedure is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Schools
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more popular and may be a good option for those looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to those who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address 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 sure that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the ideal choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Woodland Hills CA?
If you live near Woodland Hills California or perhaps are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
Woodland Hills, Los Angeles
Woodland Hills is in the southwestern region of the San Fernando Valley which is located east of Calabasas and west of Tarzana. On the north it is bordered by West Hills, Canoga Park, and Winnetka, and on the south by the Santa Monica mountains.
Some neighborhoods are in the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains. Running east–west through the community are U.S. Route 101 (Ventura Freeway) and Ventura Boulevard, whose western terminus is at Valley Circle Boulevard in Woodland Hills.
The area was inhabited for approximately 8,000 years by Native Americans of the Fernandeño-Tataviam and Chumash-Venturaño tribes that lived in the Santa Monica Mountains and Simi Hills and close to the Arroyo Calabasas (Calabasas Creek) tributary of the Los Angeles River in present-day Woodland Hills. The first Europeans to enter the San Fernando Valley were the Portola Expedition in 1769, exploring 'Alta California' for Spanish missions and settlements locations. Seeing it from present-day Sepulveda Pass, the oak savanna inspired them to call the area El Valle de Santa Catalina de Bononia de Los Encinos (Valley of St. Catherine of Bononia of the Oaks). The Mission San Fernando Rey de España (Mission San Fernando) was established in 1797 and controlled the Valley's land, including future Woodland Hills.
Legal Assistant Schools Woodland Hills CA
Selecting the ideal legal assistant degree program is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Legal Assistant Schools. But as we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Woodland Hills home. Paralegal training programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Various kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, 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 career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you elect to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to assess each program and make your final selection. And with the appropriate training you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Woodland Hills CA.
Other California Locations That May Be Of Interest
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