How to Choose a Paralegal College near Paragould Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Paragould AR and start your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you locate the best school so that you will get the comprehensive 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 educational options are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students start by trying to find paralegal schools within driving distance of their Paragould homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into account also. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your choice. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill the same job positions and functions, only 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 category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist attorneys in Paragould AR with a diverse array of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. 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 firm could 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 lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but some of their daily activities can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a Paragould AR paralegal can be involved and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to start your career in Paragould AR as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may involve as little as six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arkansas to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Paragould AR.
Online Paralegal Degrees
Paralegal online programs have become more common and may be an excellent option for individuals in Paragould AR looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to those who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the process of evaluating Paragould AR area schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. 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 discussed, there are other significant aspects to think about as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also get 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 establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Paragould AR law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the Paragould AR paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking 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 call some law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Paragould AR legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Arkansas legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ among states, it may be beneficial to choose a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to initially look at those colleges that are within your Paragould AR local area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be available to help offset some of the expense, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Paragould AR. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Paragould AR, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you enroll in offers that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Paragould AR?
Paragould is the county seat of Greene County, and the 19th-largest city in Arkansas, in the United States. The city is located in northeastern Arkansas on the eastern edge of Crowley's Ridge, a geologic anomaly contained within the Arkansas delta.
Paragould is the principal city of the Paragould, Arkansas Micropolitan Statistical Area and is also a part of the Jonesboro-Paragould Combined Statistical Area. The Paragould micropolitan area's population was 42,090 at the 2010 census, and the Jonesboro-Paragould Combined Statistical Area's population was 163,116.
The city's name is a blend combining the last names of competing railroad magnates J. W. Paramore and Jay Gould. Paramore's Texas & St. Louis Railway (later the Cotton Belt) and Gould's St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railway (later the Missouri Pacific) intersected here in 1882. A group of citizens chose the name, and it is believed to be the only city in the world with this name. Gould objected to his name's being second and refused to list the new town on his schedules.
Paragould is located southeast of the center of Greene County. U.S. Routes 412 and 49 intersect in the city west of downtown. US 412 leads east 9 miles (14 km) to the Missouri state line at the St. Francis River, and a further 23 miles (37 km) northeast to Kennett, Missouri; to the west US 412 leads 26 miles (42 km) to Walnut Ridge. US 49 leads northeast 32 miles (51 km) to Piggott and southwest 20 miles (32 km) to Jonesboro. The closest major city is Memphis, Tennessee, 82 miles (132 km) to the southeast.
Enroll in the Ideal Paralegal Degree Program near Paragould AR
Enrolling in the right paralegal educational program is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Paragould home. Paralegal training programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Various types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you decide to acquire 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 decision. And with the ideal training you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Paragould AR.
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