How to Choose the Right Paralegal School near Lonoke Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Lonoke AR and start your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you locate the best school so that you will get the extensive 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 options are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students start by searching for schools within driving range of their Lonoke residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school must be taken into account as well. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your decision. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic options 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 functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Lonoke AR attorneys with a wide variety 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 firm might assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their everyday activities may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger number 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. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Lonoke AR is by obtaining a certificate, which can require just 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arkansas to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Lonoke AR area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of 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 important issues to think about also, for instance 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 investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Lonoke AR law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Lonoke AR law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Lonoke 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 pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Arkansas legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws differ from state to state, it might be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Arkansas or the state where you want to work after graduation. Also, it will be important to create relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the area where you choose 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 want to first investigate those colleges that are within the Lonoke AR region.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help minimize part of the cost, so be sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Lonoke AR. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, some of these additional expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Lonoke AR, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in offers that option. Last, ask what the process is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Degrees
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more popular and may be an excellent alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to those who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Lonoke AR?
If you live near Lonoke 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.
Lonoke (/ˈloʊnoʊk/) is the second most populous city in Lonoke County, Arkansas, United States, and serves as its county seat. According to 2010 United States Census, the population of the city is 4,245. It is part of the Little Rock–North Little Rock–Conway Metropolitan Statistical Area.
Lonoke's history begins with the advance of Union troops through Central Arkansas during the American Civil War. The town of Brownsville was burned to the ground by Union forces after the retreat of Confederate forces westward to Little Rock. After the war, it was decided by the city leaders of Brownsville that a new town should be formed by the nearby railroad so that those who wished to stay could do so.
According to local legend, the town was named for a large red oak tree that was found while trees were being chopped down in order to build houses. The official name of the city was originally Lone Oak. However, due to a misprint in the Lonoke Democrat newspaper, the town's name was printed as Lonoak. Eventually, this misspelling became further misspelled as Lonoke.
Top Paralegal Certificate Programs Lonoke AR
Choosing the ideal paralegal training program is an important 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 Top Paralegal Certificate Programs. But as we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Lonoke home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Different kinds of private and public 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 impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you elect to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Lonoke 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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