How to Choose a Paralegal College near Rogers Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Rogers AR and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students start by trying to find paralegal schools within traveling range of their Rogers homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you need to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school should be considered also. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your decision. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill comparable job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help attorneys in Rogers AR with a wide variety of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. 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 normally billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their routine activities might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a Rogers AR paralegal can be complex 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 proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs 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 prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to start your career in Rogers AR as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve just 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be obtained 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. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arkansas to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will discuss the benefits 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 Rogers AR.
Paralegal Online Certificates
Online paralegal schools have become more popular and may be a good alternative for students in Rogers AR looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to those who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more 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 thinking about are accredited by a respected organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing Rogers AR area schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important factors to consider as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Rogers AR law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the Rogers AR paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also provide a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Rogers AR legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Arkansas legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary among states, it might be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you wish to work after graduation. In addition, it will be important to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area where you desire 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 want to initially investigate those schools that are within your Rogers AR local area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be accessible to help offset some of the expense, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Rogers AR. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Rogers AR, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you enroll in provides that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making-up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Rogers AR?
Rogers is located in Northwest Arkansas, United States, one of the fastest growing metro areas in the country. Rogers was the location of the first Walmart store, whose corporate headquarters is located in neighboring Bentonville. Rogers is a city in the Ozarks in Benton County. Daisy Outdoor Products, known for its air rifles, has both its headquarters and its Airgun Museum in Rogers.
As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 55,964. In 2017 the estimated population was 66,430, making it the sixth-most populous city in the state. Rogers is part of the Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers Metropolitan Area, one of the fastest growing in the nation. The Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers Metropolitan Area, more commonly known as Northwest Arkansas, is ranked 109th in terms of population in the United States, with 465,776 inhabitants as of the 2010 U.S. Census.
Rogers was named after Captain Brent Elliott Rogers, who was vice-president and general manager of the St. Louis and San Francisco Railway, also known as the Frisco. The town was established in 1881, the year the Frisco line arrived; it was at this time the area residents honored Captain Rogers by naming it for him. The community was incorporated on June 6, 1881.
In June 2007, BusinessWeek magazine ranked Rogers as 18th in its list of the 25 best affordable suburbs in the American South. And in 2010, CNN Money ranked Rogers #10 on their list of 100 Best Places to Live.
Choose the Ideal Paralegal Certificate Program near Rogers AR
Choosing the right paralegal training program is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Rogers home. Paralegal education programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you decide to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to examine each program and make your final decision. And with the right education you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Rogers 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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