How to Find a Paralegal College near Bigelow Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Bigelow AR and start your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students start by searching for paralegal schools within traveling distance of their Bigelow homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be taken into consideration too. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your selection. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices 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 fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist lawyers in Bigelow AR with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring 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 carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their daily tasks may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a Bigelow AR paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more apropos 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 ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
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. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to start your career in Bigelow AR as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arkansas to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Bigelow AR.
Paralegal Online Degrees
Paralegal online schools have become more available and can be an excellent option for students in Bigelow AR searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to students who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can often be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least 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 respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the ideal option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing Bigelow AR area schools. But because there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important factors to consider as well, including 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 researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Bigelow AR law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the Bigelow AR paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing 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 have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start creating contacts within the Bigelow AR legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Arkansas legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ from state to state, it may be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school located in the state where you plan to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to develop relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to first look at those colleges that are within your Bigelow AR local region.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help offset part of the expense, so be sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Bigelow AR. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Bigelow AR, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you choose 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 Bigelow AR?
Bigelow is a town in Perry County, Arkansas, United States. Located in Central Arkansas near the confluence of the Fourche La Fave River and Arkansas River, the community was incorporated in 1905 as Esau. Based largely on the timber industry, the town grew until the lumber mills were closed in 1920. The population was 329 at the 2000 census.
Bigelow did not exist by its current name until 1911, as it was formerly known as "Esau"—a community a few miles southwest of the present Toadsuck Ferry Bridge that grew to border the edge of the small town of Fourche. In 1911, Fourche River Mill owner, N.P. Bigelow, built an elaborate white house of the best lumber on a hill above the town. He was elected mayor, and then gained permission from the state's General Assembly to change the name of Esau to Bigelow. It was at one time the biggest town in the county; a vote was taken to move the county seat from Perryville to Bigelow, Bigelow won the vote, but the move was never made.
As of the census of 2000, there were 329 people, 127 households, and 91 families residing in the town. The population density was 391.5 inhabitants per square mile (151.2/km²). There were 144 housing units at an average density of 171.3 per square mile (66.2/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 97.57% White, 0.61% Black or African American, 0.91% Native American, 0.61% Asian, and 0.30% from two or more races. 2.43% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 127 households out of which 33.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.9% were married couples living together, 12.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.6% were non-families. 24.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 16.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.59 and the average family size was 3.05.
Choose the Ideal Paralegal College near Bigelow AR
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal training program is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Bigelow home. Paralegal training programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Different kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, 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 wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you decide to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Bigelow AR.
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