How to Select a Paralegal Degree Program near Van Buren Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Van Buren AR and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students start by looking for paralegal schools within driving range of their Van Buren residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be considered too. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your decision. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic choices 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 hold the same job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help attorneys in Van Buren AR with a diverse array of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. 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 might assist with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their daily activities can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a Van Buren AR paralegal can be complex and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks 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, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to start your career in Van Buren AR as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. After you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arkansas to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Van Buren AR.
Online Paralegal Training
Online paralegal schools have become more prevalent and can be an excellent alternative for students in Van Buren AR looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to individuals who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing Van Buren AR area schools. But since there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial aspects to research also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a recognized 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 education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Van Buren AR law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the Van Buren AR paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you pick 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 some law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Van Buren AR legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Arkansas legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ among states, it might be beneficial to choose a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you want to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially look at those schools that are within your Van Buren AR local region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential received and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help reduce part of the expense, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Van Buren AR. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these added costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Van Buren AR, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you select makes available that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Van Buren AR?
Van Buren, Arkansas
Van Buren /væn ˈbjʊərən/ is the second largest city in the Fort Smith, Arkansas-Oklahoma Metropolitan Statistical Area and the county seat of Crawford County, Arkansas, United States. The city is located directly northeast of Fort Smith at the Interstate 40 - Interstate 540 junction. The city was incorporated in 1845 and as of the 2010 census had a population of 22,791, ranking it as the state's 22nd largest city, behind Searcy.
The area was settled by David Boyd and Thomas Martin in 1818. After Arkansas became a territory in 1819 Daniel and Thomas Phillips constructed a lumber yard in the community to serve as a fuel depot for traffic along the Arkansas River. In 1831 a post office was constructed for the community, at the time known as Phillips Landing. This post office was named after the newly appointed Secretary of State, Martin Van Buren.
John Drennen, along with his partner David Thompson, purchased the area for US$11,000. They moved their business of supplying firewood for steamboats to this new location on higher ground. The courthouse was constructed on a lot of land donated by Drennen on the condition that Van Buren become the county seat. The Drennen Reserve is one of the town's existing historical sites from the 1830s.
On December 28, 1862, Union and Confederate forces clashed in and around Van Buren resulting in a defeat for Major-General T. C. Hindman, driving him south across the river with minimal casualties. Federal forces captured 100 prisoners, as stated in an official report by U.S. Major-General Samuel R. Curtis.
Enroll in the Ideal Paralegal Training near Van Buren AR
Selecting the right paralegal training program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Van Buren home. Paralegal education programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you decide to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to assess each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Van Buren AR.
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