How to Pick the Right Paralegal School near Lavaca Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Lavaca AR and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students begin by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Lavaca residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be considered also. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective 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 educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Lavaca AR attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but some of their routine tasks may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready 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 complex and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to manage a much larger number of clients or cases 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 prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Lavaca AR is by earning a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed 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 substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Lavaca AR area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many prospective 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 issues to research as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Lavaca AR law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Lavaca AR law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also present a pathway for students to start creating contacts within the Lavaca AR legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Arkansas legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws differ from state to state, it might be advantageous to select a paralegal school domiciled in Arkansas or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to create relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially consider those schools that are within the Lavaca AR area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be obtainable to help offset some of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Lavaca AR. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these added costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Lavaca AR, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you choose offers that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family obligations.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Degrees
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more available and can be a good option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to individuals who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the ideal option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Lavaca AR?
If you live near Lavaca 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.
Lavaca (/ləˈvɑːkə/ (listen)) is a city in Sebastian County, Arkansas, United States. It is part of the Fort Smith, Arkansas-Oklahoma Metropolitan Statistical Area. As of the 2010 Census the population was 2,289. The population was 1,825 at the 2000 census. Lavaca was incorporated in 1919.
As of the census of 2000, there were 1,825 people, 674 households, and 529 families residing in the city. The population density was 849.9 people per square mile (327.7/km²). There were 718 housing units at an average density of 334.4 per square mile (128.9/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 95.12% White, 0.16% Black or African American, 1.26% Native American, 1.21% from other races, and 2.25% from two or more races. 2.14% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 674 households out of which 41.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 65.6% were married couples living together, 9.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 21.5% were non-families. 18.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.71 and the average family size was 3.09.
Bachelor Degree In Paralegal Studies Lavaca AR
Enrolling in the best paralegal degree school is an essential 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 Bachelor Degree In Paralegal Studies. But as we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Lavaca home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you choose to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right training you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Lavaca 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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