How to Choose a Paralegal Program near Decatur Arkansas
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Decatur AR and start your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you locate the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by trying to find paralegal schools within traveling distance of their Decatur homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you ought to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program must be taken into account also. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, 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 attorneys in Decatur AR with a wide range of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their day-to-day tasks may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a Decatur AR paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos 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 ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career in Decatur AR as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arkansas to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Decatur AR.
Online Paralegal Certificates
Paralegal online schools have become more available and may be an excellent alternative for students in Decatur AR searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online programs can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating Decatur AR area schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must find out 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 also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting 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 several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Decatur AR law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the Decatur AR paralegal programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, 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 a few law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also offer a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Decatur AR legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Arkansas legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws vary from state to state, it might be beneficial to select a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to first consider those colleges that are within your Decatur AR local area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help offset part of the cost, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Decatur AR. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Decatur AR, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you select makes available that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making-up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Decatur AR?
Decatur is a city, in Benton County, Arkansas, United States. The population was 1,699 at the 2010 census. It is part of the Fayetteville–Springdale–Rogers, AR-MO Metropolitan Statistical Area. This town is named after Commodore Stephen Decatur, Jr.
Decatur is located in western Benton County at 36°20′15″N 94°27′24″W / 36.33750°N 94.45667°W / 36.33750; -94.45667 (36.337541, -94.456721).Arkansas Highway 59 passes through the city, leading north 6 miles (10 km) to Gravette and 13 miles (21 km) to the Missouri border, and south 13 miles (21 km) to Siloam Springs. Arkansas Highway 102 leads east 16 miles (26 km) to Bentonville and west 10 miles (16 km) to the Oklahoma border.
According to the United States Census Bureau, Decatur has a total area of 4.5 square miles (11.7 km2), of which 4.4 square miles (11.5 km2) is land and 0.039 square miles (0.1 km2), or 1.21%, is water.
As of the 2010 census Decatur had a population of 1,699. The racial and ethnic makeup of the population was 62.4% non-Hispanic white, 0.5% non-Hispanic black, 4.3% Native American, 0.9% Asian, 5.2% from two or more races and 28.4% Hispanic or Latino.
Enroll in the Ideal Paralegal Certificate Program near Decatur AR
Selecting the ideal paralegal training 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 option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Decatur home. Paralegal training programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Several types of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you choose to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to examine each program and make your final decision. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Decatur 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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