How to Select the Right Paralegal Studies Program near Jacksonville Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Jacksonville AR and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it’s essential that you locate the best school so that you will get 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 educational alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students begin by trying to find schools within commuting range of their Jacksonville residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school must be considered as well. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your selection. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Jacksonville AR lawyers with a wide range of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but some of their routine tasks can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Drafting 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 preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Jacksonville AR is by earning a certificate, which may take just six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arkansas to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Jacksonville AR area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other important aspects to think about as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Jacksonville AR law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Jacksonville AR law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Jacksonville AR legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Arkansas legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it might be a good idea to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Arkansas or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to initially consider those colleges that are within the Jacksonville AR area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be accessible to help minimize some of the cost, so be sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Jacksonville AR. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Jacksonville AR, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, find out what the process is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Classes
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more available and may be an excellent option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to individuals who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the right choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Jacksonville AR?
If you live near Jacksonville 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.
Jacksonville is a city in Pulaski County, Arkansas, United States, and a suburb of Little Rock. As of the 2010 census, the population of the city was 28,364. It is part of the Little Rock–North Little Rock–Conway Metropolitan Statistical Area with 729,135 people as of 2014.
The city is named for Nicholas Jackson, a landowner who deeded the land for the railroad right-of-way to the Cairo & Fulton Railroad in 1870. The community evolved from the settlement surrounding the railroad depot, eventually incorporating in 1941. In 1941, construction began on the Arkansas Ordnance Plant (AOP), which served as the primary facility for the development of fuses and detonators for World War II. Following the war, AOP ceased operations and the land was sold for commercial interests, including the development of the Little Rock Air Force Base in 1955. Today, portions of AOP still remain, including the Arkansas Ordnance Plant Guard House, which is on the National Register of Historic Places and the Jacksonville Museum of Military History. Despite Pulaski County being an Arkansas county that is not a "dry" county, as it allows the sales of beer and liquor, the municipal limits of Jacksonville are "moist", as it does not allow the sales of alcohol in stores, but allows the sale of alcohol in some restaurants with special permits.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 28.2 square miles (73.1 km2), of which 28.1 square miles (72.8 km2) is land and 0.12 square miles (0.3 km2), or 0.42%, is water.
Online Degrees Paralegal Jacksonville AR
Enrolling in the best paralegal training school 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 Online Degrees Paralegal. But as we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Jacksonville residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Several kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you decide to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to evaluate each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Jacksonville 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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