How to Pick a Paralegal School near Jonesboro Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Jonesboro AR and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students begin by trying to find paralegal schools within traveling distance of their Jonesboro homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be taken into account as well. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional 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 essentially both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, just 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 category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers in Jonesboro AR with a diverse array of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their everyday activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a Jonesboro AR paralegal can be complicated and very demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to start your career in Jonesboro AR as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which can require just 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arkansas to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Jonesboro AR.
Paralegal Online Training
Paralegal online programs have become more available and can be a good option for those in Jonesboro AR looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the right choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating Jonesboro AR area schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant aspects to research also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over some 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 choose need to be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify 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. A number of Jonesboro AR law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are often accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the Jonesboro AR paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Jonesboro AR legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Arkansas legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws differ among states, it might be advantageous to choose a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to create relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to first look at those colleges that are within your Jonesboro AR local region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential received and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help minimize some of the cost, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Jonesboro AR. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Jonesboro AR, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in offers that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Jonesboro AR?
Jonesboro is a college town and the fifth-largest city in Arkansas. Located atop on Crowley's Ridge, Jonesboro is the first county seat of Craighead County and the home to Arkansas State University. According to the 2010 Census, the city had a population of 71,551.
Jonesboro is the largest principal city in northeastern Arkansas and the Arkansas Delta included in the Jonesboro, Arkansas Metropolitan Statistical Area. In 2010, the Jonesboro metropolitan area had a population of 121,026 and a population of 163,116 in the Jonesboro-Paragould Combined Statistical Area.
The Jonesboro area was first inhabited for thousands of years by indigenous peoples. At the time of European encounter, historic tribes included the Osage, the Caddo, and the Quapaw. The name of the state of Arkansas comes from the Quapaw language. French and Spanish traders and trappers had relations with these groups.
After the United States acquired this territory in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, American settlers eventually made their way to the area where Jonesboro is located. They began exploring, hunting, trapping, and trading with the local Indian tribes. A permanent settlement of Jonesboro was set up shortly after 1815.
Select the Ideal Paralegal College near Jonesboro AR
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal degree program is an essential 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 at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Jonesboro home. Paralegal training programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Various kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you elect to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to review each program and make your final selection. And with the appropriate training you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Jonesboro AR.
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