How to Find a Paralegal Training Program near Fayetteville Arkansas
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Fayetteville AR and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students begin by looking for paralegal schools within traveling range of their Fayetteville homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school must be considered as well. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional 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 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 Fayetteville AR with a diverse array 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. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is usually billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and abide by 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 regular activities might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a Fayetteville AR paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed 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 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 manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to start your career in Fayetteville AR as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which may take just six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arkansas to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few 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 cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Fayetteville AR.
Online Paralegal Degrees
Online paralegal schools have become more prevalent and can be an excellent alternative for individuals in Fayetteville AR searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to individuals who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online programs can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing Fayetteville AR area schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can 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 prospective 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 important factors to think about also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Fayetteville AR law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the Fayetteville AR paralegal schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, 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 some law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while still in school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Fayetteville AR legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? 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 considering have job assistance 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 corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary from one state to another, it may be beneficial to choose a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you want to practice after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to initially consider those colleges that are within your Fayetteville AR local region.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help offset some of the cost, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Fayetteville AR. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, some of these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Fayetteville AR, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you select provides that option. Last, ask what the process is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Fayetteville AR?
Fayetteville is the third-largest city in Arkansas and county seat of Washington County. The city is centrally located within the county and has been home of the University of Arkansas since the institution's founding in 1871. Fayetteville is on the outskirts of the Boston Mountains, deep within the Ozarks. Known as Washington until 1829, the city was named after Fayetteville, Tennessee, from which many of the settlers had come. It was incorporated on November 3, 1836 and was rechartered in 1867. The four-county Northwest Arkansas Metropolitan Statistical Area is ranked 105th in terms of population in the United States with 463,204 in 2010 according to the United States Census Bureau. The city had a population of 73,580 at the 2010 Census.
Fayetteville is home to the University of Arkansas, the state's largest university. When classes are in session, thousands of students on campus dramatically change the city's demographics. Thousands of Arkansas Razorbacks alumni and fans travel to Fayetteville to attend football, basketball, and baseball games. The University's men's track and field program has won 41 national championships to date. Fayetteville was named the third best place to live in the United States in the 2016 U.S. News Best Places To Live Rankings, and one of the best places to retire in the South.Forbes also ranked Fayetteville as the 24th-best city for business and careers in 2016. Lonely Planet named Fayetteville among its top 20 places to visit in the South in 2016. The city hosts the Walmart Shareholders Meetings each year at the Bud Walton Arena.
In 1828, George McGarrah settled at Big Spring with his family on the modern day corner of Spring and Willow, founding the town of Washington, and starting work on the courthouse. On October 17, Washington County was established, Washington chosen as the county seat. The Washington Courthouse was finished in 1829, and also contained the post office. Later in the year Postmaster Larkin Newton changed the name to the Fayetteville Courthouse, to avoid confusing with Washington, Hempstead County. Two councilmen selected to name the city were from Fayetteville, Tennessee, which was itself named for Fayetteville, North Carolina (where some of its earliest residents had lived before moving to Tennessee). That original Fayetteville was named for General Lafayette, a French general who helped the colonies gain independence in the American Revolutionary War.
The first store in Fayetteville was opened by John Nye in a small building constructed by James Holmsley. In 1832 David Walker, Chief Justice of the Arkansas supreme court, built a double log cabin on what is now Center Street. In 1822 Archibald Yell, the second Governor of Arkansas, built a house and called it "Waxhaw" after his home in North Carolina. This was on the outskirts of town then but now is a street named after him that connects College and School streets. The first hotels were the Burnside House and the Onstott House. Fayetteville was incorporated as a town on November 3, 1836.
Select the Ideal Paralegal Certificate Program near Fayetteville AR
Selecting the ideal paralegal training program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying 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 Fayetteville residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Several types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you elect to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to assess each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate training you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Fayetteville 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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