How to Select a Paralegal Degree Program near Mena Arkansas
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Mena AR and start your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it’s essential that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students start by looking for paralegal schools within commuting range of their Mena residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you ought to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program should be taken into account also. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic 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 basically both fill the same job positions and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist lawyers in Mena AR with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their routine tasks may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a Mena AR paralegal can be involved and very demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more suited 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 are able to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Training 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 fastest way to start your career in Mena AR as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can take just 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. Once you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arkansas to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few 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 program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Mena AR.
Paralegal Online Certificates
Paralegal online programs have become more popular and can be an excellent alternative for students in Mena AR looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to those who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a respected organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the right option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can begin the process of evaluating Mena AR area schools. But since there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical aspects to research also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Mena AR law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the Mena AR paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no previous 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. Reviewing school rating services, 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 contact several law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to start creating contacts within the Mena AR legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Arkansas legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws differ from state to state, it may be advantageous to select a paralegal school located in the state where you want to practice after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to first investigate those schools that are within your Mena AR local region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help offset some of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Mena AR. Of course if you opt to attend an online program, some of these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Mena AR, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you select makes available that option. Last, find out what the process is for making-up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Mena AR?
Mena was founded by Arthur Edward Stilwell during the building of the Kansas City, Pittsburg and Gulf Railroad (now the Kansas City Southern), which stretched from Kansas City, Missouri to Port Arthur, Texas. Train service to Mena began in 1896.
Stilwell named the town in honor of Folmina Margaretha Janssen-De Goeijen, the wife of his friend and financier Jan De Goeijen, whom Mr. De Goeijen affectionately called Mena. Janssen Park in the center of Mena is also named for her.
In 1901, a black man, Peter Berryman, was lynched after an alleged altercation with a white girl. No one was arrested for the crime. Several other instances of racially motivated hate and violence towards Mena's black community had been noted. This, combined with declining job prospects after the railway shops left town, led many blacks to leave Mena. By 1910, just 16 remained.
The Mena Star advertised the town as being "100% white" in its March 18, 1920 edition, and a local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan was organized in 1922. In 1927, the Mena Commercial Club created advertisements which stated that Mena, in addition to having "pure soft water" and "beautiful scenery", also had "no Negroes".
Enroll in the Best Paralegal Training near Mena AR
Choosing the right paralegal educational program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Mena home. Paralegal training programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Several kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you choose to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each school and make your final selection. And with the right education you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Mena AR.
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