How to Pick a Paralegal Training Program near Greenwood Arkansas
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Greenwood AR and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students start by looking for paralegal schools within driving distance of their Greenwood residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be taken into account too. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help attorneys in Greenwood AR with a wide variety of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but some of their day-to-day activities can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a Greenwood AR paralegal can be involved and very challenging. 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 proceeding. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career in Greenwood AR as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arkansas to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few 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 advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Greenwood AR.
Online Paralegal Certificates
Online paralegal schools have become more prevalent and can be a good alternative for students in Greenwood AR searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to individuals who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online schools can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools 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 sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating Greenwood AR area schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important aspects to consider as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Greenwood AR law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the Greenwood AR paralegal schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also present an avenue for students to start creating contacts within the Greenwood AR legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Arkansas legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ among states, it might be a good idea to choose a paralegal school located in the state where you plan to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the area where you want to work. 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 want to initially consider those colleges that are within your Greenwood AR local region.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be obtainable to help reduce some of the expense, so be sure to contact the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Greenwood AR. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these added costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Greenwood AR, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you choose offers that option. Last, ask what the process is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Greenwood AR?
Greenwood is a city in and one of the two county seats of Sebastian County, Arkansas, United States. It is the fifth largest municipality in the Fort Smith, Arkansas-Oklahoma Metropolitan Statistical Area with a population of 8,952 according to the 2010 US Census. According to estimates based on the most recent census, the population of Greenwood in 2017 was 9,405.
Greenwood was founded in 1851 when its location was selected for the first county seat of Sebastian County. The town was named for Judge Alfred Burton Greenwood. Judge Greenwood had been elected the previous year to serve as Circuit Judge over ten Northwest Arkansas counties. The first court house was a log structure, replaced in 1865 by a frame court house which was built in the center of the public square. This courthouse later burned and in 1916 the courthouse was relocated south of the square. Since that time the square has become a city park and site of many festivals, city picnics and celebrations.
The growth of Greenwood was comparatively slow, but by the breaking out of the Civil War it had attained some importance as a business center and by 1889 its business directory listed General Merchandise, Drugs, Groceries, Cotton Gin, Grist and Saw Mill, 3 Hotels, 3 Blacksmith and wood shops, 3 physicians, 1 dentist and 7 attorneys.
The clock and bell tower that stands in the middle of town square was designed and built in 1976 in recognition of the United States' bicentennial. The bell tower houses the clock and bell that was once in the courthouse that was destroyed by the tornado. The clock and bell were used in the bell tower to recognize and remember the 14 people who died during the tornado.
Enroll in the Best Paralegal School near Greenwood AR
Selecting the ideal paralegal educational program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding 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 comfort and privacy of your Greenwood home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Various types of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you choose to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to assess each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Greenwood AR.
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