How to Choose a Paralegal Program near Pine Bluff Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Pine Bluff AR and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students start by trying to find paralegal schools within traveling range of their Pine Bluff residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be considered also. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your decision. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional options 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 fill the same job roles 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 different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist attorneys in Pine Bluff AR with a wide variety of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their day-to-day activities can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a Pine Bluff AR paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal counsel and advice 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 right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career in Pine Bluff AR as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can require just 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arkansas to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Pine Bluff AR.
Online Paralegal Schools
Paralegal online schools have become more common and may be a good option for students in Pine Bluff AR looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to individuals who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable agency, for instance 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 could be the ideal option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating Pine Bluff AR area schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to 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 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 significant issues to consider also, for instance accreditation and the reputation 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 final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Pine Bluff AR law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the Pine Bluff AR paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings 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. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also present an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Pine Bluff AR legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high 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 students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary from one state to another, it may be beneficial to select a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the area where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to first consider those schools that are within your Pine Bluff AR local area.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. However, 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 aid may be obtainable to help offset some of the expense, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Pine Bluff AR. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Pine Bluff AR, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you choose offers that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making-up missed classes due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Pine Bluff AR?
Pine Bluff, Arkansas
Pine Bluff is the tenth-largest city in the state of Arkansas and the county seat of Jefferson County. It is the principal city of the Pine Bluff Metropolitan Statistical Area and part of the Little Rock-North Little Rock-Pine Bluff Combined Statistical Area. The population of the city was 49,083 in the 2010 Census with 2017 estimates showing a decline to 42,984.
The city is situated in the Southeast section of the Arkansas Delta and straddles the Arkansas Timberlands region to its west. Its topography is flat with wide expanses of farmland, consistent with other places in the Delta Lowlands. Pine Bluff has numerous creeks, streams, and bayous. (Bayou Bartholomew is the longest bayou in the world and is the second most-diverse stream in the United States). Large bodies of water include Lake Pine Bluff, Lake Langhofer (Slack Water Harbor), and the Arkansas River.
The area along the Arkansas River had been inhabited for thousands of years by indigenous peoples of various cultures. They used the river for transportation as did European settlers after them, and for fishing. By the time of encounter with Europeans, the historical Quapaw were the chief people in the area, having migrated from the Ohio River valley centuries before.
The city of Pine Bluff was founded by Europeans on a high bank of the Arkansas River heavily forested with tall pine trees. The high ground furnished settlers a safe haven from annual flooding. Joseph Bonne, a Métis fur trader and trapper of mixed Quapaw and colonial French ancestry, settled on this bluff in 1819.
Enroll in the Best Paralegal Program near Pine Bluff AR
Selecting the ideal paralegal training program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Pine Bluff home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Various kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to review each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Pine Bluff 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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