How to Select a Paralegal School near Prairie Grove Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Prairie Grove AR and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students start by trying to find paralegal schools within commuting range of their Prairie Grove residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school must be taken into consideration too. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional options 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 fill comparable job roles 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 separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist lawyers in Prairie Grove AR with a wide range of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their daily activities may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a Prairie Grove AR paralegal can be complex and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more applicable 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 ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education 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 requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career in Prairie Grove AR as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can require just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arkansas to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Prairie Grove AR.
Paralegal Online Programs
Paralegal online programs have become more common and may be a good alternative for individuals in Prairie Grove AR searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the right option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating Prairie Grove AR area schools. But because there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can 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 prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant issues to consider as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can effectively 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 respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also get 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 get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Prairie Grove AR law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the Prairie Grove AR paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying 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 verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Prairie Grove AR legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement 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 well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ from state to state, it may be beneficial to select a paralegal school located in the state where you plan to practice after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire 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 live outside of their districts. So you might wish to first investigate those schools that are within your Prairie Grove AR local region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be accessible to help offset part of the cost, so make sure to talk to the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Prairie Grove AR. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, some of these added expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Prairie Grove AR, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in provides that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Prairie Grove AR?
Prairie Grove, Arkansas
Prairie Grove is a city in Washington County, Arkansas, United States. The population was 4,380 at the 2010 Census. It is part of the Northwest Arkansas region, and home to Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park. The park spans a large amount of land and contains a visitor center, museum, several monuments, a driving tour and a collection of period buildings and homes.
Prairie Grove was the site of the Battle of Prairie Grove during the American Civil War. Confederate forces under General Thomas C. Hindman attempted to prevent the juncture of two Federal forces under Generals James G. Blunt and Francis J. Herron. The result of the battle was a tactical stalemate which assured permanent Union control of northwest Arkansas. The battlefield is now a State Military Park.
The Natural Resources Defense Council released an issue paper stating between that 1997 and 2001, Prairie Grove was the center of a cluster of testicular cancer cases. No clear cause has been identified but the NRDC notes the town is near a closed nuclear reactor and a low-level radioactive landfill. Arsenic from industrialized chicken manure is another possible source. In 2004, residents sued one of the poultry farms and the poultry feed manufacturer for spreading contaminated manure throughout Prairie Grove. The lawsuit did not assign blame and the cause of the cancer cluster has never been definitively determined.
As of the census of 2010, there were 4,380 people, 1,658 households, and 1,197 families residing in the city. The racial makeup of the city was 91.08% White, 0.80% Black or African American, 2.90% Native American, 0.70% Asian, 0.10% Pacific Islander, 1.50% from other races, and 2.10% from two or more races. 4.50% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
Select the Ideal Paralegal School near Prairie Grove AR
Choosing the best paralegal degree program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Prairie Grove home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Different types of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But no matter how you elect to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to review each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Prairie Grove 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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