How to Select a Paralegal Program near Smackover Arkansas
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Smackover AR and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by looking for paralegal schools within driving distance of their Smackover homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be taken into consideration also. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly 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 roles and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist lawyers in Smackover 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 duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly 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 mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their day-to-day tasks might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a Smackover AR paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career in Smackover AR as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arkansas to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Smackover AR.
Paralegal Online Training
Online paralegal schools have become more prevalent and can be an excellent option for those in Smackover AR looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to individuals who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online classes can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating Smackover AR area schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical issues to research as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Smackover AR law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the Smackover AR paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, 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 contact several law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also present a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Smackover AR legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without help. 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 a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Arkansas legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws differ from state to state, it may be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you want to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to initially investigate those schools that are within your Smackover AR local area.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help reduce some of the cost, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Smackover AR. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, some of these additional expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Smackover AR, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in offers that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Smackover AR?
Smackover is a small city in northern Union County, Arkansas, United States. According to Citydata.com, the 2014 population was at 1,790. It had a large oil boom in the 1920s, with production continuing for some time.
In 1686, the French settlers called this area "SUMAC COUVERT", which translates to "covered in sumac bushes". This was transliterated, that is, phonetically Anglicized by the English-speaking settlers of the 19th century and later to the name "SMACKOVER."
Oil was discovered in this area in 1922; it attracted national attention, speculators, and an economic boom. Smackover was incorporated in 1923. In the 1920s there was a large-scale oil industry in Smackover. The industry declined here and across southern Arkansas by the 1960s, at a cost of many jobs and major losses to the area economy.
The Smackover Oil Field was discovered on April 14, 1922. The J.T. Murphy well drilled by Oil Operators Trust, reached the Upper Cretaceous Nacatoch sand at a depth of 2024 feet, part of the Norphlet dome. Within a year, almost 1,000 wells had produced 25 million barrels of oil.
Enroll in the Best Paralegal Certificate Program near Smackover AR
Choosing the best paralegal training program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Smackover home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Different kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you decide to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to assess each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Smackover AR.
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