How to Select a Paralegal Training Program near Charleston Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Charleston AR and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s important 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 among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students begin by trying to find paralegal schools within driving distance of their Charleston residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you ought to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program should be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic 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 hold comparable job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help attorneys in Charleston AR with a wide range of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their routine tasks may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a Charleston AR paralegal can be complex and very demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks 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 preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career in Charleston AR as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arkansas to practice 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Charleston AR.
Online Paralegal Degrees
Online paralegal schools have become more prevalent and may be a good option for those in Charleston AR looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary 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 cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating Charleston AR area schools. But since there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many prospective 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 factors to think about as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Charleston AR law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the Charleston AR paralegal programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school 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 confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also present a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Charleston AR legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating 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 most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Arkansas legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ from state to state, it might be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school located in the state where you want to practice after graduation. Also, it will be important to build relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to initially consider those colleges that are within your Charleston AR local region.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help offset some of the expense, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Charleston AR. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Charleston AR, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you select offers that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Charleston AR?
Charleston is a city in Franklin County, Arkansas, United States, and (along with Ozark) one of the two county seats of Franklin County. It is part of the Fort Smith, Arkansas-Oklahoma Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 2,522 at the 2010 census, down from 2,965 at the 2000 census.
In 1954, Charleston was the first school district in the former Confederate States to implement school integration in response to Brown v. Board of Education. On July 27, 1954, the school board, including President Howard Madison Orsburn, George Hairston, Archibald Schaffer, Herbert Shumate, and Homer Keith, unanimously voted to "disband the Colored School and admit the Colored children into the grade and high school when classes open for the fall semester." Accordingly, when the schools opened on August 23, 11 black children were in attendance alongside 480 whites. School Superintendent Woodie Haynes made an agreement with the local press not to cover the event, and stonewalled any outside reporters that asked questions. The decision to integrate had financial benefits, as the district had been paying a considerable sum to transport black high school students to Fort Smith, and were able to close the old Rosenwald school. Charleston suffered some discrimination from other schools and the state; many schools refused to play football against them and the band was denied the opportunity to play in some band competitions. In 1961, the first two black students to graduate from Charleston were Barbara (Williams) Dotson and Joe Ferguson.
According to the United States Census Bureau, Charleston has a total area of 4.4 square miles (11.4 km2), of which 4.3 square miles (11.1 km2) is land and 0.1 square miles (0.3 km2), or 2.53%, is water.
As of the census of 2000, there were 2,965 people, 1,201 households, and 815 families residing in the city. The population density was 706.4 people per square mile (272.6/km²). There were 1,315 housing units at an average density of 313.3 per square mile (120.9/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 95.58% White, 0.07% Black or African American, 0.64% Native American, 0.34% Asian, 1.48% from other races, and 1.89% from two or more races. 2.06% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
Enroll in the Right Paralegal Program near Charleston AR
Choosing the right paralegal degree 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 option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Charleston residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Various kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you decide to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to examine each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Charleston AR.
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