How to Select a Paralegal Certificate Program near Jacksonville Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Jacksonville AR and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you find the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students begin by looking for paralegal schools within traveling distance of their Jacksonville homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program should be considered also. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your choice. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational 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 for the most part both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help attorneys in Jacksonville AR with a wide range of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but some of their everyday tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready 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 Jacksonville AR paralegal can be complicated and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more applicable 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 have the ability to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career in Jacksonville AR as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which can require just 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arkansas to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Jacksonville AR.
Online Paralegal Programs
Paralegal online schools have become more available and may be an excellent alternative for individuals in Jacksonville AR searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to those who keep working while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online classes can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing Jacksonville AR area schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical issues to consider 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 schools you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a recognized organization 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 education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Jacksonville AR law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are often accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the Jacksonville AR paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Bear 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 Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Jacksonville AR legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Arkansas legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws vary among states, it may be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in the state where you want to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many 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 Jacksonville AR local region.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be available to help offset some of the expense, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Jacksonville AR. Of course if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, 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 in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Jacksonville AR, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you select offers that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed because of work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Jacksonville AR?
Jacksonville is a city in Pulaski County, Arkansas, United States, and a suburb of Little Rock. As of the 2010 census, the population of the city was 28,364. It is part of the Little Rock–North Little Rock–Conway Metropolitan Statistical Area with 729,135 people as of 2014.
The city is named for Nicholas Jackson, a landowner who deeded the land for the railroad right-of-way to the Cairo & Fulton Railroad in 1870. The community evolved from the settlement surrounding the railroad depot, eventually incorporating in 1941. In 1941, construction began on the Arkansas Ordnance Plant (AOP), which served as the primary facility for the development of fuses and detonators for World War II. Following the war, AOP ceased operations and the land was sold for commercial interests, including the development of the Little Rock Air Force Base in 1955. Today, portions of AOP still remain, including the Arkansas Ordnance Plant Guard House, which is on the National Register of Historic Places and the Jacksonville Museum of Military History. Despite Pulaski County being an Arkansas county that is not a "dry" county, as it allows the sales of beer and liquor, the municipal limits of Jacksonville are "moist", as it does not allow the sales of alcohol in stores, but allows the sale of alcohol in some restaurants with special permits.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 28.2 square miles (73.1 km2), of which 28.1 square miles (72.8 km2) is land and 0.12 square miles (0.3 km2), or 0.42%, is water.
As of the census of 2000, there were 29,916 people, 10,890 households, and 8,004 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,134.2 people per square mile (437.9/km²). There were 11,890 housing units at an average density of 450.8 per square mile (174.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 64.17% White, 27.88% Black or African American, 0.50% Native American, 1.98% Asian, 0.13% Pacific Islander, 1.14% from other races, and 2.58% from two or more races. 6.24% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
Choose the Right Paralegal Certificate Program near Jacksonville AR
Selecting the best paralegal training program is a vital first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Jacksonville home. Paralegal training programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Different types of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you elect to acquire 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 selection. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Jacksonville 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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