How to Find a Paralegal College near Bentonville Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Bentonville AR and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you locate the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic choices are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students start by looking for paralegal schools within driving range of their Bentonville homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school should be taken into account as well. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your choice. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold the same 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 are part of a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help attorneys in Bentonville AR with a wide range of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but some of their daily tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a Bentonville AR paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career in Bentonville AR as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve as little as 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. After you have obtained 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 work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded 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 address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Bentonville AR.
Online Paralegal Certificates
Paralegal online schools have become more available and may be an excellent option for students in Bentonville AR searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the right option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can start the process of evaluating Bentonville AR area schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other crucial issues to research as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Training 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 training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Bentonville AR law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the Bentonville AR paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also present an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Bentonville AR legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement 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 corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws vary among states, it might be advantageous to choose a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be important to build relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially consider those colleges that are within your Bentonville AR local area.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be accessible to help minimize some of the cost, so make sure to talk to the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Bentonville AR. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Bentonville AR, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you choose provides that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Bentonville AR?
Bentonville is the ninth-largest city in Arkansas and the county seat of Benton County. The city is centrally located in the county with Rogers adjacent to the east. The city is the headquarters of Walmart, which is the world's largest retailer. It is one of the four main cities in the four-county Northwest Arkansas Metropolitan Statistical Area, which is ranked 109th in terms of population in the United States with 463,204 in 2010 according to the United States Census Bureau. The city itself had a population of 35,301 at the 2010 Census, with an estimated population of 47,093 in 2016.
The Walmart Visitor Center is located on the Bentonville town square in Sam Walton's original Walton's Five and Dime, and the company headquarters includes 15 buildings along Walton Boulevard (US 71B) in the western part of the city. Just north of downtown Bentonville is the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Founded by Alice Walton in 2011, this museum contains many masterpieces from all eras of American art, including many works from Walton's private collection. Across the square from the Walmart Visitor Center is the Benton County Courthouse, the center of the county government. Bentonville High School is located just west of Interstate 49/US Route 71 in central Bentonville.
The area now known as Bentonville's first known use by humans was as hunting grounds by the Osage Nation who lived in Missouri. The Osage would leave their settlements to hunt in present-day Benton County for months at a time before returning to their families. White settlers first inhabited the area around 1837 and named their settlement "Osage". By this time, the Osage had ceased using the area for hunting, and the white settlers began to establish farms. Upon establishment of Benton County on September 30, 1836, Osage was deemed a suitable site for the county seat, and the town square was established as the home of county government the following year. Osage was renamed Bentonville in honor of Thomas Hart Benton, a senator from Missouri who strongly supported Arkansas statehood.
Two years after Arkansas received statehood in 1836, thousands of Cherokee people from Georgia passed through Benton County as part of the Trail of Tears route to the Indian Territory in what is now Oklahoma. Although no Civil War battles were fought inside Bentonville, the city was occupied by both armies and saw almost all of its buildings burned, either by opposing armies or guerrilla outlaws. Bentonville was a staging point for the Confederate army prior to the Battle of Pea Ridge, fought about 12 miles (19 km) northeast of town, and the town saw a brief skirmish just prior to the battle. The city began to rebuild about a decade after incorporation on April 3, 1873, with many of these Reconstruction Era buildings today serving as the oldest structures in Bentonville.
Find the Ideal Paralegal Degree Program near Bentonville AR
Selecting the right paralegal training program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Bentonville residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Various kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Bentonville AR.
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