How to Enroll in the Right Legal Assistant Certificate Program near Salem Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Salem AR and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying 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 succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students begin by trying to find schools within traveling range of their Salem residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be taken into account too. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your decision. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, 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 Salem AR lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day tasks may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready 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 complex and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger volume 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 arguably 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 launch your career as a paralegal in Salem AR is by earning a certificate, which can involve just six months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arkansas to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded 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 program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Salem AR area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must know 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 many 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 also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Salem AR law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. 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 training exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Salem AR law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Salem AR legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Arkansas legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from state to state, it may be a good idea to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Arkansas or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to build relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the area where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to first look at those colleges that are within the Salem AR area.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be available to help offset some of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Salem AR. Of course if you choose 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? Numerous paralegal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Salem AR, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you select provides that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Schools
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more common and can be a good alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Salem AR?
If you live near Salem 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.
Online Masters Degree In Legal Studies Salem AR
Choosing the ideal paralegal training school is a crucial 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 Online Masters Degree In Legal Studies. But as we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Salem residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Several types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you elect to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to assess each program and make your final decision. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Salem 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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