There are many dedicated paralegal schools in California that have churned out qualified graduates with a promising degree. In fact, as of May 2013, there are about 29,000 paralegals in employment in CA according to the Bureau of Legal Statistics.
Most paralegals are located in urban areas of the state like Los Angeles, San Diego, and Sacramento. Being the location of Silicone Valley, you can see paralegals working in software publishing, as well as fields like educational support services, and the management of natural resources.
California has regulations and requires registration for LDAs or legal document assistants who draft and prepare court documents and provide legal information for those who want to have legal counsel.
Almost 15 years ago, there were LDAs who called themselves paralegals even though they didn’t have the training to be one nor did they work under a law firm or a private lawyer. So, in 2001, the California State Legislature decided to set minimum requirements for those who wan to qualify as paralegals. Those qualifications were:
- Must have completed 24 semester units of paralegal education from an institution that has been approved by the state or is duly accredited.
- Must have completed a paralegal certificate program that has approval from the American Bar Association (ABA)
- Must have completed a bachelor’s degree in any field and have one year of experience in a law setting with the supervision of a lawyer working in the federal courts of California or a lawyer licensed in California for at least three years.
Paralegal Schools in California
Okay, having a paralegal degree is mandatory in California. What are some of the best paralegal schools in CA that provides training and education for aspiring students?
Some top universities in the state of California include the following:
UC Davis Extension
UC Davis has a top-notch Certificate Program in Paralegal Studies that merges a high quality education and a dynamic and intensive curriculum for students who want to become paralegals. They train their students to develop useful skills such as being able to analyze documents, managing clients, law assessments, drafting contracts, etc. Their program also provides full support to Spanish students and gives them access to online legal research resources like Westlaw and LexisNexis. All of their instructors are licensed lawyers who expose students to advanced topics like torts and contract law. UC Davis Extension requires a high school diploma or an advanced degree prior to admission.
The Fremont College of Legal Studies has a Paralegal Studies Degree Program approved by the ABA. Fremont College designed this degree to provide an intensive instruction of the history and theories of the legal system as well as providing a very thorough approach when it comes to legal research and application. Their programs are flexible and have two locations in Cerritos and Los Angeles. They also offer an accelerated program that allows their students to get degrees within 15 months.
California State University, Chico
CSU Chico’s paralegal certificate program requires a completion of 27 rigorous hours that includes two internships—Public Law and Legal Studies. In order to stay with the program, all students need to maintain a 2.5 grade point average for all of their courses and during their final semester, must apply for a certificate conferral. CSU Chico’s Department of Political Science spearheads the paralegal program, which is no surprise why they also require their students to be highly academic and productive.
Cañada College offers an Associate in Science-Paralegal degree program that provides 60 credit hours for students. They developed this program alongside the San Mateo County Legal Secretaries Association and the San Mateo County Bar Association. The program includes courses such as Legal Ethics, Advanced Legal Research and Writing, Electronic Litigation, and Trial Preparations. They also give their students the freedom to choose their own specialties such as immigration, family law, or contracts.
SF State University – College of Extended Learning
SF State University is the only institution in San Francisco to have a Paralegal Education Program that has ABA approval. They provide an intensive curriculum that requires their students to have internship experience at reputable firms and agencies by their second semester. Some of these agencies include offices of public defenders, California Coastal Commission, and the City Attorney’s office. The school believes that their students’ direct exposure early in their education to the field helps prepare them for their careers in the future.
Schools In Los Angeles
What if I want to study in Los Angeles? What are my options?
You have countless of schools to choose from in the Los Angeles area, but these three schools are the ones that should be on top of your list:
University of California – Los Angeles
Tuition fee: $7,995 (includes textbooks and various educational materials)
Program offered: Paralegal Studies Certificate Program
Admission pre-requisites: A bachelor’s degree in any field and/or job experience in a law setting
One of the good things about UCLA’s Extension programs is that they provide their students an opportunity to reach their career goals without having to attend a typical 4-year program. Their program for paralegal education offers various training opportunities and their students are all under the supervision of licensed lawyers.
They provide two different options for students. They have a daytime program that comprises of lessons conducted 5 days a week and can be completed within 5 months. Their evening program provides classes twice a week and can be completed in 12 months. All of their students are expected to maintain a grade point average of 2.0 to be able to take their exams. Certificates are provided for those who accomplish all requirements that include a very intensive exam.
While internship programs may not be available for students in their paralegal program, UCLA offers career counseling and assistance in job placements.
University of California – Irvine
Tuition fee: $5,500 to $6,500 (includes textbooks, educational materials, and other fees)
Program offered: Paralegal Certificate Program
Admission pre-requisites: A bachelor’s degree in any field
As with UCLA, University of California – Irvine provides an extension program for those who want to become paralegals. Their program consists of 30 units with courses taught by a faculty full of paralegals and lawyers who hold Juris Doctors. Their program is completed within a year to a year and a half, with evening classes held once a week. Half of the program is required to be taken in a classroom setting, and the other half can be taken online if a student chooses to do so.
California State University – Los Angeles
Tuition fee: $6,000 (includes textbooks and for 32 units of the program)
Program offered: Paralegal Certificate Program
Admission pre-requisites: Associate’s or Bachelor’s Degree or general education requirements for a bachelor’s degree.
California State University – Los Angeles offers a program for paralegal education that requires the completion of 32 units and takes around 15 months. They offer four education tracks to students: a general track, and 3 special tracks in corporate practice, legal technology, and litigation. They give the students freedom to specialize in two fields, with courses only offered in the evening.