How to Pick a Paralegal Program near Huntsville Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Huntsville AR and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive 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 educational options are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students start by trying to find paralegal schools within traveling range of their Huntsville homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program should be taken into account as well. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your decision. But first, let’s have a look at 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 essentially both fill the same job roles 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 category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist attorneys in Huntsville AR with a diverse array of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their regular activities can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a Huntsville AR paralegal can be complex and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, 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 job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to start your career in Huntsville AR as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can take just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arkansas to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. 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 program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Huntsville AR.
Online Paralegal Degrees
Online paralegal schools have become more available and may be a good alternative for students in Huntsville AR looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the process of assessing Huntsville AR area schools. But since there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to know 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 also. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important aspects to think about also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Huntsville AR law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the Huntsville AR paralegal programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking 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 call some law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Huntsville AR legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering 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 good relationships with Arkansas legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from state to state, it might be advantageous to choose a paralegal school located in the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to create relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to first look at those colleges that are within your Huntsville AR local region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be obtainable to help reduce part of the expense, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Huntsville AR. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Huntsville AR, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in provides that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Huntsville AR?
Huntsville is a city in Madison County, Arkansas, United States. The population was 2,346 at the 2010 census. The city is the county seat of Madison County, located in the northwest corner of the state. During the American Civil War in 1862, it was the site of what became known as the Huntsville Massacre.
Huntsville was named for John Hunt, considered the founder of the settlement. Huntsville incorporated as a town after the Civil War in 1877. The community was incorporated as a city on July 16, 1925.
As of the census of 2000, there were 1,931 people, 761 households, and 493 families residing in the city. The population density was 640.0 people per square mile (246.9/km²). There were 853 housing units at an average density of 282.7/sq mi (109.1/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 90.21% White, 0.10% Black or African American, 2.12% Native American, 0.21% Pacific Islander, 6.53% from other races, and 0.83% from two or more races. 12.79% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 761 households out of which 33.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.2% were married couples living together, 15.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.1% were non-families. 32.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 20.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.43 and the average family size was 3.03.
Enroll in the Right Paralegal Training near Huntsville AR
Enrolling in the best paralegal training program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Huntsville residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Different kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, 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 profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you elect to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to examine each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Huntsville AR.
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Paralegal Studies | California State University, East Bay
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