How to Pick a Paralegal Certificate Program near Plainview Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Plainview AR and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students start by looking for paralegal schools within driving distance of their Plainview homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be taken into consideration also. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s take a look at 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 fill the same job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help attorneys in Plainview AR with a wide range of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their routine activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a Plainview AR paralegal can be complicated and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more applicable 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, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career in Plainview AR as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arkansas to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded 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 school (we will address 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 Plainview AR.
Online Paralegal Programs
Paralegal online schools have become more popular and may be a good alternative for students in Plainview AR looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the ideal option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the process of assessing Plainview AR area schools. But because there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant aspects to research as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a highly regarded 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 learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Plainview AR law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the Plainview AR paralegal schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also present a pathway for students to start creating contacts within the Plainview AR legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success 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 substantiates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary from state to state, it might be advantageous to select a paralegal school located in the state where you plan to work after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to create relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to initially look at those schools that are within your Plainview AR local region.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential received and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be available to help offset part of the cost, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Plainview AR. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Plainview AR, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you choose provides 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 Plainview AR?
As of the census of 2000, there were 755 people, 287 households, and 212 families residing in the city. The population density was 522.7 people per square mile (202.4/km²). There were 347 housing units at an average density of 240.3/sq mi (93.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 92.85% White, 0.13% Black or African American, 0.53% Native American, 6.36% from other races, and 0.13% from two or more races. 6.36% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 287 households out of which 34.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.8% were married couples living together, 10.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 26.1% were non-families. 24.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.63 and the average family size was 3.06.
In the city, the population was spread out with 28.2% under the age of 18, 10.3% from 18 to 24, 26.4% from 25 to 44, 17.1% from 45 to 64, and 18.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 97.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 97.8 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $26,583, and the median income for a family was $30,500. Males had a median income of $19,444 versus $20,000 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,247. About 7.5% of families and 14.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 19.1% of those under age 18 and 10.7% of those age 65 or over.
Enroll in the Ideal Paralegal Program near Plainview AR
Enrolling in 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 option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Plainview residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Various types of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you elect to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to examine each program and make your final selection. And with the right training you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Plainview AR.
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Paralegal Studies | California State University, East Bay
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