How to Select the Right Legal Assistant School near Charleston Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Charleston AR and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational choices are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by searching for schools within driving distance of their Charleston residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school should be considered as well. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your choice. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill the same job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Charleston AR lawyers with a wide range of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their everyday tasks may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing 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 files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and very demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really 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 volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Charleston AR is by earning a certificate, which can involve just six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arkansas to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected 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 program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Charleston AR area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important issues to consider as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a respected organization 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 online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Charleston AR law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are often accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Charleston AR law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also provide a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Charleston AR legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Arkansas legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ among states, it may be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Arkansas or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire 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 may need to initially look at those schools that are within the Charleston AR region.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure 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 obtainable to help minimize part of the expense, so make sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Charleston AR. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, some of these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Charleston AR, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you choose makes available that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making-up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Training
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more popular and can be an excellent alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to those who keep working while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the right choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Charleston AR?
If you live near Charleston 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.
Charleston is a city in Franklin County, Arkansas, United States, and (along with Ozark) one of the two county seats of Franklin County. It is part of the Fort Smith, Arkansas-Oklahoma Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 2,522 at the 2010 census, down from 2,965 in 2000.
In 1954, Charleston was the first school district in the former Confederate States to implement school integration in response to Brown v. Board of Education. On July 27, 1954, the school board, including President Howard Madison Orsburn, George Hairston, Archibald Schaffer, Herbert Shumate, and Homer Keith, unanimously voted to "disband the Colored School and admit the Colored children into the grade and high school when classes open for the fall semester." Accordingly, when the schools opened on August 23, 11 black children were in attendance alongside 480 whites. School Superintendent Woodie Haynes made an agreement with the local press not to cover the event, and stonewalled any outside reporters that asked questions. The decision to integrate had financial benefits, as the district had been paying a considerable sum to transport black high school students to Fort Smith, and were able to close the old Rosenwald school. Charleston suffered some discrimination from other schools and the state; many schools refused to play football against them and the band was denied the opportunity to play in some band competitions. In 1961, the first two black students to graduate from Charleston were Barbara (Williams) Dotson and Joe Ferguson.
According to the United States Census Bureau, Charleston has a total area of 4.4 square miles (11.4 km2), of which 4.3 square miles (11.1 km2) is land and 0.1 square miles (0.3 km2), or 2.53%, is water.
Paralegal College Charleston AR
Choosing the best paralegal studies training school is an important first step to guarantee 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 College. But 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 Charleston home. Paralegal education programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Several types of public and private institutions offer 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 influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Charleston AR.
Other Arkansas Locations That May Be Of Interest
Bing: Arkansas Paralegal Certificate Schools Search results
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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