How to Pick the Right Legal Assistant School near Clarksville Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Clarksville AR and start your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students start by looking for schools within driving distance of their Clarksville residences. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be taken into consideration also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your selection. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill the same job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Clarksville AR attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties 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 applicable laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Clarksville AR is by obtaining a certificate, which may take just 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arkansas to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Clarksville AR area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other significant factors to consider as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school 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 obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Clarksville AR law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Clarksville AR law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Clarksville AR legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Arkansas legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ from state to state, it may be advantageous to select a legal assistant school located in Arkansas or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to develop relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to first look at those schools that are within the Clarksville AR region.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help minimize part of the expense, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Clarksville AR. Of course if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Clarksville AR, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Classes
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more prevalent and may be an excellent alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated 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 Clarksville AR?
If you live near Clarksville 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.
Clarksville is a city in Johnson County, Arkansas, United States. As of the 2010 census the population was 9,178, up from 7,719 in 2000. As of 2016, the estimated population was 9,524. The city is the county seat of Johnson County. It is nestled between the Arkansas River and the foothills of the Ozark Mountains, and Interstate 40 and US Highway 64 intersect within the city limits. Clarksville-Johnson County is widely known for its peaches, scenic byways and abundance of natural outdoor recreational activities.
The community began as settlers arrived to the Arkansas Territory. After the Osage tribe was relocated by treaty,Cherokee settlers came to Arkansas by 1800 and primarily lived along the Arkansas River. Indian trading factors such as Matthew Lyon established their offices at Spadra, on the west end of Lake Dardanelle on the Arkansas River, a Clarksville location now occupied by Spadra Marina. A historical marker, dedicated in 1984, sits on Spadra Bluff, near the original river town of Spadra. The area was reserved for the Cherokee, so most early settlers of Johnson County did not move into the area until after 1828, the year the Cherokee gave up their land.
Spadra was the first county seat of Johnson County, convenient to steamboat lines. However when stagecoach and train transportation became more common, land routes from Little Rock to Fort Smith were directed along higher elevations through Clarksville. As Clarksville grew, it became the de facto location for the county seat circa 1833, probably due to severe flooding at Spadra. Clarksville was established by survey in November 1836 after Johnson County was formed from part of Pope County. The first court session was held in 1837 in a private building.
Paralegal Studies Degree Clarksville AR
Choosing the ideal legal assistant degree school is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Paralegal Studies Degree. But as we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Clarksville residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Various types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you choose to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to assess each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Clarksville AR.
Other Arkansas Locations That May Be Of Interest
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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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