How to Pick a Paralegal College near Magnolia Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Magnolia AR and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students begin by looking for paralegal schools within commuting distance of their Magnolia residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school should be considered as well. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly 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 basically both fill the same job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist attorneys in Magnolia AR with a wide variety of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a Magnolia AR paralegal can be complicated and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions 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 have the ability to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to start your career in Magnolia AR as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may require as little as 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arkansas to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Magnolia AR.
Online Paralegal Degrees
Online paralegal programs have become more available and can be a good option for those in Magnolia AR looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to individuals who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online classes can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, 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 certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating Magnolia AR area schools. But because there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important aspects to research as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Magnolia AR law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the Magnolia AR paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several law practices 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 could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also provide a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Magnolia AR legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Arkansas legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws differ among states, it might be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to establish relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to first consider those colleges that are within your Magnolia AR local region.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help minimize part of the cost, so make sure to check with the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Magnolia AR. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Magnolia AR, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you enroll in offers that option. Last, ask what the process is for making up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Magnolia AR?
The city was founded in 1853. At the time of its incorporation in 1858, the city had a population of about 1,950. The city grew slowly as an agricultural and regional cotton market until the discovery of oil just east of the city in March 1938, with the Barnett #1 drilled by the Kerr-Lynn Company. The Magnolia Oil Field was an important discovery for the city as well as for the nation, as it was the largest producing field (in volume) during the early years of World War II, helping to sustain the American war effort.
Magnolia is located in southwest Arkansas, north of the center of Columbia County at 33°16′27″N 93°14′1″W / 33.27417°N 93.23361°W / 33.27417; -93.23361 (33.274052, -93.233477). The average altitude is 336 ft (102 m) above sea level according to NOAA. The surrounding region is a mix of dense forest, farm prairies, and low rolling hills.
The average temperature is 64 °F (18 °C), and the average annual rainfall is 50.3 inches (1,280 mm). The winters are mild but can dip into the teens at night and have highs in the 30s and even some 20s but average out around 50. The springs are warm and can be stormy with strong to severe storms and average highs in the mid 70s. Summers are often hot, humid and dry but with occasional isolated afternoon storms, highs in the mid to upper 90s and even 100s. In the fall the temps cool from the 90s and 100s to 80s and 70s. Early fall temps are usually in the 80s but can reach 90s and at times has reached 100. Late fall temps fall to 70s and 60s. It is not uncommon to see snow and ice during the winter. It has been known to snow a few times as late as April and as early as November in Magnolia.
As of the census of 2000, there were 10,858 people, 4,204 households, and 2,577 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,165.3 people per square mile (449.8/km²). There were 4,821 housing units at an average density of 517.4 per square mile (199.7/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 58.24% White, 39.38% Black or African American, 0.22% Native American, 0.65% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.48% from other races, and 1.00% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.07% of the population.
Choose the Best Paralegal Training near Magnolia AR
Enrolling in the best paralegal training program is an important 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 participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Magnolia home. Paralegal training programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including 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 career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you elect to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the right training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Magnolia AR.
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