How to Choose a Paralegal Degree Program near Stuttgart Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Stuttgart AR and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students start by looking for paralegal schools within driving distance of their Stuttgart homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program must be considered also. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your choice. But first, let’s take 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 essentially both hold comparable job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, 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 help attorneys in Stuttgart AR with a wide range of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their daily activities might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a Stuttgart AR paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more suited 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 preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career in Stuttgart AR as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which may require just six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arkansas to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Stuttgart AR.
Online Paralegal Degrees
Online paralegal schools have become more popular and may be an excellent alternative for those in Stuttgart AR looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to those who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online classes can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating Stuttgart AR area schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial aspects to research as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a reputable organization 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 distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Stuttgart AR law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the Stuttgart AR paralegal programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Stuttgart AR legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Arkansas legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary among states, it might be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you plan to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to first investigate those schools that are within your Stuttgart 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 provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help minimize part of the cost, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Stuttgart AR. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Stuttgart 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 offers that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Stuttgart AR?
Stuttgart is a city in and the county seat of the northern district of Arkansas County, Arkansas, United States. It is located on U.S. Route 79, approximately 45 miles (72 km) southeast of Little Rock. As of the 2010 census it had a population of 9,326.
Stuttgart was founded by Reverend Adam Bürkle, a native of Plattenhardt in Germany. He moved to the United States in 1852 and founded a settlement at Gum Pond after living in Ohio. In 1880, he opened a post office and had thus to name the village. In honor of his home he named it after Stuttgart, then capital of the Kingdom of Württemberg. In 1882, the Texas and St. Louis railroad was opened. Stuttgart became a city in 1884, and in 1904, rice farming was first introduced in the Stuttgart area. Stuttgart's first Post Office General was a Black man named Martin Toms according to the US Census.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 7.2 square miles (18.7 km2), all land. Hard clay underlying the area's topsoil makes Stuttgart a good place to grow rice, which grows best in flooded fields made possible by the clay. The geography is mainly flat with no outstanding mountainous features with the exception of "WBA Mountain", a small artificial mound located west of the city.
As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 9,326 people residing in the city. 58.7% were White, 36.5% African American, 0.2% Native American, 0.7% Asian, 2.4% from other races and 1.4% from two or more races. 3.5% were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
Select the Right Paralegal Degree Program near Stuttgart AR
Enrolling in the right paralegal training program is a vital first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Stuttgart home. Paralegal training programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Several types of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including 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 profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you elect to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to examine each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Stuttgart AR.
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