How to Find the Right Paralegal Studies Program near Alma Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Alma AR and start your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it’s essential that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic choices 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 start by looking for schools within driving distance of their Alma homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be taken into account as well. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill comparable job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Alma AR attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their everyday tasks might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Alma AR is by obtaining a certificate, which may take as little as six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. After you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arkansas to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Alma AR area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant factors to think about 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 programs you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Alma AR law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Alma AR 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 could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while attending school. They can also present a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Alma AR legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Arkansas legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from state to state, it might be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Arkansas or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially look at those colleges that are within the Alma AR area.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be available to help minimize some of the expense, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Alma AR. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Alma AR, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you select provides that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Training
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more prevalent and can be a good alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to individuals who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a respected organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Alma AR?
If you live near Alma Arkansas or perhaps are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
Alma is a city in Crawford County, Arkansas, United States. It is located within the Arkansas River Valley at the edge of the Ozark Mountains; the city is the sixth largest in the Fort Smith metropolitan area. The population was 5,419 at the 2010 Census. The city is located at the intersection of Interstates 40 and 49.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 5.6 square miles (14.4 km2), of which 5.4 square miles (14.0 km2) is land and 0.15 square miles (0.4 km2), or 3.06%, is water.
Alma has no airport, and the train station, which fell into a state of dilapidation, was torn down in the early 1970s. Much of its commerce derives from interstate highway traffic, as Interstates 40 and 49 (previously 540), as well as U.S. Routes 64 and 71, pass through the city.
Paralegal Studies Online Alma AR
Choosing the ideal legal assistant degree program is an essential 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 Paralegal Studies Online. But as we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Alma residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you choose to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to assess each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Alma AR.
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Paralegal Studies | California State University, East Bay
She also teaches the Introduction to Paralegalism class. Thornberry currently works as a real estate paralegal in a land development business. She is also a licensed realtor. Thornberry previously worked for the law firm of Burnham and Brown. Thornberry earned her Paralegal Certificate from California State University, East Bay in 1993.
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University of Arkansas–Fort Smith
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