How to Select the Right Paralegal Certificate Program near Searcy Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Searcy AR and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you locate the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students start by looking for schools within driving distance of their Searcy residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school should be considered also. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your selection. But first, let’s take 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 positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Searcy AR lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but some of their regular tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Preparing 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 managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Searcy AR is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arkansas to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded 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 program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
What to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Searcy AR area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important aspects to consider 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 considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Searcy AR law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training 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 quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Searcy AR law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also offer a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Searcy AR legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high 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? Because laws vary from state to state, it might be a good idea to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Arkansas or the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to create relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you wish 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 need to initially look at those colleges that are within the Searcy AR area.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help reduce part of the cost, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Searcy AR. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these added expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Searcy AR, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you choose provides that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Schools
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more common and can be an excellent alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to those who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee 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 organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the ideal option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Searcy AR?
If you live near Searcy 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.
Searcy (/ˈsɜːrsi/ SUR-see) is the largest city and county seat of White County, Arkansas, United States. According to 2014 Census Bureau estimates, the population of the city is 23,768. It is the principal city of the Searcy, AR Micropolitan Statistical Area which encompasses all of White County. The city takes its name from Richard Searcy, a judge for the Superior Court of the Arkansas Territory. A college town, Searcy is the home of Harding University and ASU-Searcy.
Originally named White Sulphur Springs, the town's name was changed in 1837, two years after White County was created. The state changed the county seat name to honor Richard Searcy (1794-1832), a prominent Arkansas Legislator.
Israel Moore, who had traveled west from Philadelphia, was in charge of laying out Searcy's original streets, and "he proceeded to name the major streets of Searcy for those of downtown Old Philadelphia near Independence Hall; Race, Arch, Market, Vine, Spring, and the tree-honoring streets of Cherry, Spruce, Locust and Pine." In 1957, Searcy named Moore Street after the 19th-century founder.
ABA Approved Online Paralegal Certificate Programs Searcy AR
Selecting the ideal paralegal studies training program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about ABA Approved Online Paralegal Certificate Programs. But as we have covered 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 Searcy residence. Paralegal academic programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Different kinds 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 pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But no matter how you choose to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to assess each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Searcy AR.
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