How to Pick a Paralegal School near West Memphis Arkansas
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near West Memphis AR and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it’s essential that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably understand, 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 begin? A number of prospective students begin by looking for paralegal schools within commuting distance of their West Memphis homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be taken into consideration as well. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your decision. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are offered 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 hold the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist lawyers in West Memphis AR with a wide range 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 are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their routine tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing 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 managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a West Memphis AR paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to start your career in West Memphis AR as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may take as little as six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arkansas to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in West Memphis AR.
Paralegal Online Programs
Paralegal online schools have become more available and may be an excellent alternative for individuals in West Memphis AR looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to those who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the process of assessing West Memphis AR area schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add 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 important factors to consider as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous West Memphis AR law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the West Memphis AR paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the West Memphis AR legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing 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 substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws differ among states, it may be advantageous to choose a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to create relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the area where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to first investigate those colleges that are within your West Memphis AR local region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential received and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help reduce part of the expense, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in West Memphis AR. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near West Memphis AR, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you choose provides that option. Finally, inquire what the procedure is for making-up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in West Memphis AR?
West Memphis, Arkansas
West Memphis is the largest city in Crittenden County, Arkansas, United States. The population was 26,245 at the 2010 census, ranking it as the state's 18th largest city, behind Bella Vista. It is part of the Memphis metropolitan area, and is located directly across the Mississippi River from Memphis.
Native Americans lived in the Mississippi River Valley for at least 10,000 years, although much of the evidence of their presence has been buried or destroyed. The Indians of the Mississippian Period were the last native inhabitants of the West Memphis area. Mound City Road, located within the eastern portion of the West Memphis city limits, has a marker indicating that the villages of Aquixo (Aquijo) or Pacaha were in the area. Several mounds are still visible.
Explorers from both Spain and France visited the area near West Memphis. Among those explorers were Hernando de Soto and his men from Spain and Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet from France. By the time French hunters and explorers entered the region, the Mississippian towns and other settlements had been abandoned. The original site of West Memphis came from Spanish land grants issued during the 1790s. Grants were given to Benjamin Fooy, John Henry Fooy, and Isaac Fooy in the Hopefield (Crittenden County) area and to William McKenney in the Bridgeport-West Memphis area.
In the summer of 1541, Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto crossed the Mississippi River into what is now Crittenden County with an army of over 300 conquistadors and almost as many captured Native American slaves. The Spanish found the land to be the most densely populated that they had seen since starting their journey on the Florida coast, two years earlier. The Spanish expedition departed Arkansas two years later, leaving behind numerous Old World diseases. It was 130 years before Europeans visited this region again. The French expedition of Joliet and Marquette in 1673 found none of the towns or people that the Spanish had documented; all that remained were the many mounds that still dot the landscape along the rivers and creeks. The original inhabitants, like the later settlers, were drawn to this region because of its fertile river bottom soil, abundant game, and thick forest.
Find the Best Paralegal Program near West Memphis AR
Selecting the best paralegal degree program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your West Memphis home. Paralegal education programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Different types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you decide to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to evaluate each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in West Memphis AR.
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