How to Find a Paralegal Training Program near West Helena Arkansas
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near West Helena AR and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic choices are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students start by searching for paralegal schools within commuting distance of their West Helena homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program must be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your decision. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional 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 essentially both hold comparable job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, 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 lawyers in West Helena AR with a diverse array of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but some of their day-to-day activities might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a West Helena AR paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical 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 have the ability to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career in West Helena AR as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which can involve as little as six 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 obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arkansas to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (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 West Helena AR.
Paralegal Online Degrees
Paralegal online programs have become more popular and may be a good alternative for those in West Helena AR looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can start the process of evaluating West Helena AR area schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other significant aspects to research as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching 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 highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous West Helena AR law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the West Helena AR paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including 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 firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the West Helena AR legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Arkansas legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ from state to state, it might be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school located in the state where you want to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you desire 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 consider those colleges that are within your West Helena AR local region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be available to help offset some of the expense, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in West Helena AR. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, some of these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near West Helena AR, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making-up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in West Helena AR?
Helena–West Helena, Arkansas
Helena–West Helena is the county seat of and the largest city within Phillips County, Arkansas, United States. The current city was consolidated, effective January 1, 2006, from the two Arkansas cities of Helena and West Helena. Helena is sited on lowlands between the Mississippi River and the eastern side of Crowley's Ridge. West Helena is located on the western side of Crowley's Ridge, a geographic anomaly in the typically flat Arkansas Delta. The Helena Bridge, one of Arkansas' four Mississippi River bridges, carries U.S. Route 49 across to Mississippi. The combined population of the two cities was 15,012 at the 2000 census and at the 2010 census, the official population was 12,282.
The municipality traces its historical roots to the founding of the port town of Helena on the Mississippi River by European Americans in 1833. As the county seat, Helena was the center of a prosperous cotton plantation region in the antebellum years. Helena was occupied by the Union Army early in the American Civil War. The city was the site of the Battle of Helena fought in 1863. Confederate forces unsuccessfully tried to expel Union forces from Helena in order to help relieve pressure on the strategic river town of Vicksburg, Mississippi. Later in the year, Helena served as the launching point for the Union Army in the capture of Little Rock, the state capital.
A thriving blues community developed here in the 1940s and 1950s as rural musicians relocated for city jobs. Mechanization had reduced the need for farm workers. The city continued to grow until the closing of the Mohawk Rubber Company, a subsidiary of Yokohama Rubber Company, in the 1970s. Unemployment surged shortly after.
Among the attractions in Helena–West Helena are the Delta Cultural Center, the Pillow-Thompson House (owned and operated by the Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas), and the Helena Confederate Cemetery, which holds the remains of seven Confederate Army generals. The city holds an annual King Biscuit Blues Festival each October. It has been held under this name since 2010, when it was renamed at a 25th-anniversary performance by musician B.B. King.
Choose the Ideal Paralegal Degree Program near West Helena AR
Enrolling in the right paralegal educational program is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your West Helena residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Several types of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you decide to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to evaluate each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in West Helena AR.
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Paralegal Studies | California State University, East Bay
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