How to Pick a Paralegal School near Lowell Arkansas
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Lowell AR and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by searching for paralegal schools within traveling distance of their Lowell residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be considered as well. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional 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 essentially both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist attorneys in Lowell AR with a wide range of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but some of their routine activities may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a Lowell AR paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. 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 paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career in Lowell AR as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which can involve just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arkansas to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Lowell AR.
Online Paralegal Classes
Online paralegal programs have become more popular and can be a good option for students in Lowell AR searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to individuals who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating Lowell AR area schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other crucial issues to consider also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Lowell AR law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the Lowell AR paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of special 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. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start creating contacts within the Lowell AR legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Arkansas legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws differ from state to state, it may be a good idea to choose a paralegal school located in the state where you want to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive 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 may want to first look at those schools that are within your Lowell AR local region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be accessible to help reduce some of the cost, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Lowell AR. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, some of these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Lowell AR, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you choose makes available that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making-up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Lowell AR?
Lowell is a city in Benton County, Arkansas, United States. Located within the Ozarks, first settlement was along Old Wire Road in the 1840s, and although destroyed during the Civil War, the community was reestablished by J. H. McClure and thrived when the St. Louis–San Francisco Railway came through the area in the 1880s. Today, the city is a growing bedroom community within the rapidly growing Northwest Arkansas region. Lowell is also home to the headquarters of trucking company J.B. Hunt. Lowell's population was 7,327 at the 2010 census, an increase of 46% since 2000.
According to the United States Census Bureau, Lowell has a total area of 9.2 square miles (23.9 km2), of which 9.2 square miles (23.7 km2) is land and 0.077 square miles (0.2 km2), or 0.68%, is water. Lowell is located in southern Benton County at 36°15′38″N 94°8′22″W / 36.26056°N 94.13944°W / 36.26056; -94.13944 (36.260429, -94.139570). It is bordered by the cities of Springdale and Bethel Heights to the south, Cave Springs to the west and Rogers to the north. 4 miles (6 km) to the east is Beaver Lake, a large reservoir of the White River.
The Fayetteville–Springdale–Rogers Metropolitan Area consists of three Arkansas counties: Benton, Madison, and Washington, and McDonald County, Missouri. The area had a population of 347,045 at the 2000 census which had increased to 463,204 by the 2010 Census (an increase of 33.47 per cent). The area does not consist of the usual principal-city-with-suburbs morphology; instead the four principal cities are all located along Interstate 49 in a linear configuration. Lowell is also located along this corridor, between Springdale and Rogers.
As of the 2010 census Lowell had a population of 7,327. The racial and ethnic composition of the population was 68.7% non-Hispanic white, 0.9% black or African American, 1.4% Native American, 2.7% Asian, 0.4% Pacific Islander, 2.6% from two or more races and 24.7% Hispanic or Latino.
Find the Ideal Paralegal Program near Lowell AR
Choosing the ideal paralegal training program is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Lowell home. Paralegal training programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Various kinds of private and public institutions offer 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. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you elect to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to review each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Lowell AR.
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