How to Choose a Paralegal Program near Salem Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Salem AR and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students start by searching for paralegal schools within driving distance of their Salem residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be taken into account as well. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your selection. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are available 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 roles and responsibilities, 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 help lawyers in Salem AR with a diverse array of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their everyday activities may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- 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 Salem AR paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more applicable 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 manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, 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 prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career in Salem AR as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which can involve just 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be earned at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. Once you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arkansas to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected 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 school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Salem AR.
Paralegal Online Training
Online paralegal programs have become more available and may be a good alternative for those in Salem AR looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to those who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can often be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing Salem AR area schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important factors to research also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Salem AR law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the Salem AR paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent 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 a few law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Salem AR legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask 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 indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Arkansas legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ among states, it may be advantageous to select a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you want to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you want 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 first investigate those schools that are within your Salem AR local region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be accessible to help minimize some of the expense, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Salem AR. Of course if you opt to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Salem AR, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you select provides that option. Last, ask what the process is for making up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Salem AR?
Select the Ideal Paralegal Program near Salem AR
Choosing the best paralegal educational program is an essential first step to guarantee 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 attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Salem residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you elect to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to review each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Salem 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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