How to Find a Paralegal Certificate Program near Clarendon Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Clarendon AR and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students begin by searching for paralegal schools within commuting distance of their Clarendon residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be taken into account too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your selection. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold comparable job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers in Clarendon AR with a wide range of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their daily activities may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a Clarendon AR paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, 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 requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career in Clarendon AR as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which can take as little as six months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arkansas to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Clarendon AR.
Paralegal Online Degrees
Online paralegal schools have become more common and may be a good alternative for those in Clarendon AR looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to individuals who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a reputable agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the process of assessing Clarendon AR area schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical aspects to think about also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Clarendon AR law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the Clarendon AR paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Clarendon AR legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Arkansas legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws vary from one state to another, it may be advantageous to choose a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the area where you choose to work. 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 may need to first consider those schools that are within your Clarendon AR local area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be accessible to help offset some of the expense, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Clarendon AR. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Clarendon AR, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you choose makes available that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Clarendon AR?
Clarendon is a city in, and the county seat of, Monroe County, Arkansas, United States. Located in the Arkansas Delta, the city's position on the White River at the mouth of the Cache River has defined the community since first incorporating in 1859. Although the river has brought devastation and disaster to the city occasionally throughout history, it has also provided economic opportunities, transportation, recreation and tourism to the city.
Once home to a variety of industries, today Clarendon's economy is largely based on agriculture. Similar to many Delta communities, the city's population has been dwindling since mechanization on the farm reduced the number of agricultural-related jobs in the area. At the 2010 Census, the population was 1,664, the lowest value recorded since 1890.
The area around Clarendon was originally populated by various Native American groups. By 1799, French hunters and trappers had built cabins at the mouth of the Cache River. It was the point where The Military Road from Memphis, Tennessee to Little Rock crossed the White River. The Military Road was begun in 1826 and completed in 1828. By that date, a ferry crossing and post office had been established in Clarendon, and the town served as the terminus for a stagecoach line to the west. The Military Road was used as the route for some groups of Native Americans being relocated from eastern states to Oklahoma during the forced relocations commonly known as the Trail of Tears; Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Cherokee groups are known to have traveled along it. A railroad bridge across the White River was constructed in 1883 by the Texas and St. Louis Railway; the ferry operated until 1931 when it was replaced by a highway bridge.
The city of Clarendon was officially incorporated in 1859. In 1864, the city was burned to the ground by Union forces in retaliation for the sinking of the tinclad Union gunboat USS Queen City by forces under the command of Confederate Brigadier General Joseph O. Shelby. The town's charter was dissolved in 1884, and it was reincorporated in 1898.
Enroll in the Right Paralegal Degree Program near Clarendon AR
Choosing the right paralegal degree program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Clarendon residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Different kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you elect to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to examine each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate training you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Clarendon AR.
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Paralegal Studies | California State University, East Bay
She also teaches the Introduction to Paralegalism class. Thornberry currently works as a real estate paralegal in a land development business. She is also a licensed realtor. Thornberry previously worked for the law firm of Burnham and Brown. Thornberry earned her Paralegal Certificate from California State University, East Bay in 1993.
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