How to Choose a Paralegal Program near Benton Arkansas
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Benton AR and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it’s essential that you find 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 academic choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students begin by trying to find paralegal schools within driving range of their Benton residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program should be taken into account too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold comparable job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help attorneys in Benton AR with a diverse array of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is normally billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their daily activities might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a Benton AR paralegal can be complicated and very demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career in Benton AR as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which may require just 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arkansas to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Benton AR.
Online Paralegal Degrees
Online paralegal programs have become more prevalent and can be a good option for those in Benton AR looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to students who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing Benton AR area schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially 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 start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant factors to research as well, such as 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 properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Benton AR law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually available only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the Benton AR paralegal schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Benton AR legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting 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 placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Arkansas legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ among states, it may be a good idea to select a paralegal school located in the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to first look at those schools that are within your Benton AR local area.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help minimize some of the expense, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Benton AR. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, some of these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Benton AR, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in provides that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Benton AR?
Benton is a city in and the county seat of Saline County, Arkansas, United States and a suburb of Little Rock. It was established in 1837. According to a 2006 Special Census conducted at the request of the city government, the population of the city is 27,717, ranking it as the state's 16th largest city, behind Texarkana. However, in the 2010 census, the city population increased to 30,681, making it the 12th largest city in the state of Arkansas. As of 2014, the population increased again to 33,625. It is part of the Little Rock–North Little Rock–Conway Metropolitan Statistical Area. The city of Benton, first settled in 1833 and named after Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton, was formally chartered in 1836 when Arkansas became a state.
As of the census of 2000, there were 21,906 people, 8,713 households, and 6,186 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,221.2 people per square mile (471.5/km²). There were 9,315 housing units at an average density of 519.3 per square mile (200.5/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 92.81% White, 4.46% Black or African American, 0.39% Native American, 0.56% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 0.75% from other races, and 1.19% from two or more races. 1.90% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 8,713 households out of which 33.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.9% were married couples living together, 11.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.0% were non-families. The average household size was 2.46 and the average family size was 2.95.
In the city, the population was spread out with 25.3% under the age of 18, 8.8% from 18 to 24, 29.8% from 25 to 44, 21.5% from 45 to 64, and 14.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females, there were 91.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.1 males.
Find the Ideal Paralegal Certificate Program near Benton AR
Choosing the ideal paralegal educational program is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Benton residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Various kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you decide to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to evaluate each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Benton 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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