How to Choose the Right Paralegal Studies Program near Mena Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Mena AR and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive 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 a growing number of academic choices are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students begin by searching for schools within commuting range of their Mena homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be considered as well. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill the same job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Mena AR attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their daily activities might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Mena AR is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and can be earned at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arkansas to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Mena AR area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other significant aspects to consider also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a recognized organization 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 focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Mena AR law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Mena AR law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while attending school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Mena AR legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Arkansas legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ from state to state, it might be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school located in Arkansas or the state where you want to work after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to first look at those colleges that are within the Mena AR region.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be accessible to help reduce part of the cost, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Mena AR. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Mena AR, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in offers that option. Finally, inquire what the procedure is for making up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Programs
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more available and may be an excellent alternative for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to those who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more 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 program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the right choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Mena AR?
If you live near Mena 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.
Mena was founded by Arthur Edward Stilwell during the building of the Kansas City, Pittsburg and Gulf Railroad (now the Kansas City Southern), which stretched from Kansas City, Missouri to Port Arthur, Texas. Train service to Mena began in 1896.
Stilwell named the town in honor of Folmina Margaretha Janssen-De Goeijen, the wife of his friend and financier Jan De Goeijen, whom Mr. De Goeijen affectionately called Mena. Janssen Park in the center of Mena is also named for her.
Mena was settled in 1896 and incorporated on September 18 of that year. In 1897, the Bank of Mena was founded. The following year, the county seat was moved from nearby Dallas to Mena. Mena's population had grown to 3,423 by 1900. The main industries of the area were timber, agriculture and mineral extraction, though it was advertised as a spa city located within a healthy environment. Stilwell donated land to the city in 1906, and a park and campground were constructed. In 1910, the railroad moved its shop facilities from Mena to Heavener, Oklahoma. This created a loss of eight hundred jobs. A private school in Mena, Hendrix Academy, closed in 1905.
Paralegal Certificate Course Mena AR
Choosing the best paralegal training program is a crucial 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 Paralegal Certificate Course. But as we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Mena home. Paralegal training programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Several kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you elect to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to review each school and make your final decision. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Mena 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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