How to Enroll in the Right Legal Assistant Degree Program near Harrisburg Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Harrisburg AR and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students begin by searching for schools within commuting distance of their Harrisburg residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you need to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be taken into account as well. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your choice. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold the same job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Harrisburg AR lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but some of their everyday activities can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping 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 job of a paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks more applicable 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, lawyers are able to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Harrisburg AR is by earning a certificate, which may involve as little as 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arkansas to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded certifying organizations in the field 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 address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Harrisburg AR area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant factors to research as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Harrisburg AR law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually available 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 considering. This is of particular 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. Confirming that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Harrisburg AR law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Harrisburg AR legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Arkansas legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws vary among states, it might be advantageous to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Arkansas or the state where you want to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to develop relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to first consider those schools that are within the Harrisburg AR region.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be accessible to help minimize part of the cost, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Harrisburg AR. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, some of these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Harrisburg AR, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you choose provides that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Classes
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more available and can be an excellent alternative for those looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Harrisburg AR?
If you live near Harrisburg 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.
Harrisburg is a city in Poinsett County, Arkansas, United States. The population was 2,288 at the 2010 census. It is included in the Jonesboro, Arkansas Metropolitan Statistical Area. The city is the county seat of Poinsett County.
As of the census of 2000, there were 2,192 people, 855 households, and 582 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,050.4 people per square mile (404.9/km²). There were 928 housing units at an average density of 444.7/sq mi (171.4/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 96.66% White, 1.24% Black or African American, 0.09% Native American, 0.27% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 0.87% from other races, and 0.82% from two or more races. 1.51% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race and 00.01% Other.
There were 855 households out of which 29.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.8% were married couples living together, 15.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.9% were non-families. 29.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.33 and the average family size was 2.84.
Schools For Paralegal Harrisburg AR
Choosing the ideal paralegal degree program is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Schools For Paralegal. But as we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Harrisburg home. Paralegal education programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Different kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you choose to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to review each program and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Harrisburg 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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