How to Find a Paralegal Studies Program near Helena Arkansas
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Helena AR and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by searching for paralegal schools within commuting distance of their Helena homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be considered too. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic 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 for the most part both hold the same job positions and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist attorneys in Helena AR with a wide range of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually 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 adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their everyday tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a Helena AR paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical duties 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 manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career in Helena AR as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which may require just six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arkansas to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help establish 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 cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Helena AR.
Paralegal Online Classes
Paralegal online programs have become more available and may be a good option for those in Helena AR looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to those who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address 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 reputable agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can start the process of evaluating Helena AR area schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to 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 the majority of prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other crucial aspects to think about as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in 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 get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Helena AR law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the Helena AR paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Helena AR legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Arkansas legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it might be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you plan to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even 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 an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially consider those colleges that are within your Helena AR local region.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential obtained 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 supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be obtainable to help reduce some of the cost, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Helena AR. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Helena AR, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you choose makes available that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Helena AR?
Helena–West Helena, Arkansas
Helena–West Helena is the county seat of and the largest city within Phillips County, Arkansas, United States. The current city was consolidated, effective January 1, 2006, from the two Arkansas cities of Helena and West Helena. Helena is sited on lowlands between the Mississippi River and the eastern side of Crowley's Ridge. West Helena is located on the western side of Crowley's Ridge, a geographic anomaly in the typically flat Arkansas Delta. The Helena Bridge, one of Arkansas' four Mississippi River bridges, carries U.S. Route 49 across to Mississippi. The combined population of the two cities was 15,012 at the 2000 census and at the 2010 census, the official population was 12,282.
The municipality traces its historical roots to the founding of the port town of Helena on the Mississippi River by European Americans in 1833. As the county seat, Helena was the center of a prosperous cotton plantation region in the antebellum years. Helena was occupied by the Union Army early in the American Civil War. The city was the site of the Battle of Helena fought in 1863. Confederate forces unsuccessfully tried to expel Union forces from Helena in order to help relieve pressure on the strategic river town of Vicksburg, Mississippi. Later in the year, Helena served as the launching point for the Union Army in the capture of Little Rock, the state capital.
A thriving blues community developed here in the 1940s and 1950s as rural musicians relocated for city jobs. Mechanization had reduced the need for farm workers. The city continued to grow until the closing of the Mohawk Rubber Company, a subsidiary of Yokohama Rubber Company, in the 1970s. Unemployment surged shortly after.
Among the attractions in Helena–West Helena are the Delta Cultural Center, the Pillow-Thompson House (owned and operated by the Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas), and the Helena Confederate Cemetery, which holds the remains of seven Confederate Army generals. The city holds an annual King Biscuit Blues Festival each October. It has been held under this name since 2010, when it was renamed at a 25th-anniversary performance by musician B.B. King.
Choose the Ideal Paralegal School near Helena AR
Choosing the right paralegal training program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Helena residence. Paralegal academic programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you elect to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to assess each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Helena 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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