How to Select the Right Paralegal Studies Program near Bigelow Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Bigelow AR and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by looking for schools within commuting range of their Bigelow homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important 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 consideration as well. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill comparable job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, 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 Bigelow AR attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their everyday tasks might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical duties 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 preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training 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 academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a paralegal in Bigelow AR is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as six months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and can be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arkansas to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Bigelow AR area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial issues to consider as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a recognized 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 focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Bigelow AR law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Bigelow AR law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also present a pathway for students to start creating contacts within the Bigelow AR legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement 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 graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ from one state to another, it may be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in Arkansas or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to initially look at those colleges that are within the Bigelow AR area.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential received and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help reduce some of the expense, so be sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Bigelow AR. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Bigelow AR, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you choose offers that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making-up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Programs
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more common and can be an excellent option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to those who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the ideal choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Bigelow AR?
If you live near Bigelow 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.
Bigelow is a town in Perry County, Arkansas, United States. Located in Central Arkansas near the confluence of the Fourche La Fave River and Arkansas River, the community was incorporated in 1905 as Esau. Based largely on the timber industry, the town grew until the lumber mills were closed in 1920. The population was 329 at the 2000 census.
Bigelow did not exist by its current name until 1911, as it was formerly known as "Esau"—a community a few miles southwest of the present Bridge that grew to border the edge of the small town of Fourche. In 1911, Fourche River Mill owner, N.P. Bigelow, built an elaborate white house of the best lumber on a hill above the town. He was elected mayor, and then gained permission from the state's General Assembly to change the name of Esau to Bigelow. It was at one time the biggest town in the county; a vote was taken to move the county seat from Perryville to Bigelow, Bigelow won the vote, but the move was never made.
As of the census of 2000, there were 329 people, 127 households, and 91 families residing in the town. The population density was 391.5 inhabitants per square mile (151.2/km²). There were 144 housing units at an average density of 171.3 per square mile (66.2/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 97.57% White, 0.61% Black or African American, 0.91% Native American, 0.61% Asian, and 0.30% from two or more races. 2.43% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
How Long Is Paralegal School Bigelow AR
Selecting the best paralegal certificate program is an important 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 How Long Is Paralegal School. But as we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Bigelow home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Different types of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you decide to receive your education 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 selection. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Bigelow 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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