Best Paralegal Schools in Arkansas
It can take a long time - and a lot of money - to get through law school, pass the bar and become an attorney in Arkansas. It's not something that's for everyone for sure. But for those fascinated by the law and the legal profession there is a less time intensive and expensive path to working in this challenging, rewarding and usually well-paying field; becoming a paralegal.
You may still need to go to school, but you will find that paralegal schools in Arkansas offer shorter courses, online and offline education and good flexibility. Interested in learning more? Then keep reading.
Paralegals in Arkansas at a glance
As is the case in many US states there are no legal minimum education or certification requirements to work as a paralegal in Arkansas. A paralegal's managing attorney takes responsibility for all the actions of their own paralegal staff and any legal issues arising from them.
It's for this reason that while paralegal education may not be a state-mandated requirement the vast majority of employers do prefer to hire people who have at least some formal education in the aspects of the law and legal practice as paralegals work in it.
While the challenge and excitement that come along with working as a paralegal in Arkansas are great reasons to consider making this your career the pay and the future growth outlook are as well.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are currently just under 2,000 working paralegals in the state of Arkansas. That figure is expected to grow however as law firms develop systems that allow paralegals to take on more duties and responsibilities. Most law firms strive to provide great service but to keep their own costs low, and expanding the roles of paralegals within their firm is a great way to do that.
The median annual wage for an Arkansas paralegal in 2018 was $42,050, with that figure rising as high as $65,080 for those in the 90th percentile, usually those working at the top corporate law firms. At any level however working as a paralegal in Arkansas is a well paid occupation, especially for those who head to a paralegal school in Arkansas to get the education that will make them a more appealing prospect to hire.
In terms of where they might work, paralegals in Arkansas have a lot of options.
Some may choose to work for large corporate law firms, but they can also choose to work with a smaller law firm or in a specialist niche like family or personal injury law.
What paralegal program should I do?
There really is no such thing as a single school, or program that is ever right for everyone, no matter what your chosen course or study. This is certainly true of paralegal schools and programs in Arkansas. Which is right for you will depend on a number of variables and preferences.
How long do you want to go to school? Would you like to be able to complete at least some of your studies online, or in the evenings or on weekends? How quickly are you hoping to enter the workforce as a paralegal?
Those who want to work as a paralegal in one of the top corporate law firms in the state, most of which are located in Little Rock, will find that most require a minimum of an AAS - Associates in Applied Science - degree in Paralegal Studies before they will consider hiring a candidate, and some may even require a BS.
Smaller law firms however, and firms and lawyers operating in fields like family or personal injury law and bankruptcy law often require less formal schooling and, provided that the candidate fits their other hiring criteria will be happy to hire people who have completed or are completing an AAS or even a paralegal certificate.
Why you should check college/university ratings?
Whatever paralegal program in Arkansas you do eventually choose none of them represent a small investment in your education and future career, so you need to ensure, as far as possible that you make the right choice and get the value for your time and money you expect. After all, very few us shop for any large item without checking the customer reviews and expert opinion articles these days, do we?
While a school's website is an excellent place to begin your research into paralegal schools in Arkansas, and to find out basic information about the campus, costs and course logistics it is not the most objective place to find out more about what the paralegal program is really like.
For that you should take the time to seek out, and read, independent third party reviews of the paralegal programs and schools you are considering. These are especially useful when they come from past students, those who have completed the studies you are considering and can offer extra insight.
When you are researching and reading reviews there are plenty of places to find them. In addition to more traditional college review sites take the time to check out social media as well, especially the comments and reviews left on the school's own social media pages. Doing this may even give you the chance to connect with students directly to ask questions about their experience with the paralegal schools in Arkansas you are considering.
Paralegal Programs in Arkansas ABA Accredited
In many states, as we mentioned, there are three basic educational paths you can choose on the road to becoming a working paralegal; a Bachelor Degree, which is likely to take four years, an Associates, which can typically be completed in two and a Paralegal Certificate program which can often be completed in less than twelve months. At this time there are no Paralegal Certificate Programs offered in Arkansas directly, but that may soon.
Kick start your paralegal career with one of these schools offering American Bar Association approved paralegal studies programs in Arkansas.
At the time of writing there are only two schools that offer paralegal programs that are approved by the American Bar Association:
University of Arkansas at Ft Smith
Paralegal Program offered: AAS in Legal Studies
Northwest Arkansas Community College
Paralegal Program offered: AAS in Paralegal Studies
There are a number of other schools that offer respected paralegal programs to Arkansas residents as well:
Pulaski Technical College (North Little Rock)
Associate of Applied Science - Paralegal Technology
Southeast Arkansas College (Pine Bluff)
Associate in Applied Science Paralegal Technology
There are a number of schools in Arkansas that offer one, or some, of these options.
Paralegal Certificate Programs in Arkansas
As Arkansas still only has a relatively small number of paralegals there are currently very few paralegal certificate programs offered to state residents, with many of those that did exist recently having been absorbed into AAS programs or discontinued.
This does mean that formal education as a paralegal in Arkansas would seem to call for a longer time commitment than it might in other states, where paralegal certificate courses are more readily available.
However, that does not mean that you should give up on the idea. In addition to flexible AAS programs there is also a national online schooling option now available that we will be highlighting along with some other great paralegal schools in Arkansas here.
Under the spotlight
University of Arkansas - Ft Smith
Programs offered: Legal Studies AAS degree (2 years)
Accreditation: ABA accreditation
Website: Visit now
The University of Arkansas offers a two-year Legal Studies AAS degree program at its Ft Smith campus that covers the basics - and more - that students need to work as an entry level paralegal successfully.
This is, as mentioned, one of the two programs in the state approved by the American Bar Association that offers modules that provide the knowledge needed to become a successful paralegal. The course itself grants 20 credits and is a four semester, on campus offering. An additional set of general education credit granting courses are then required in order for students to graduate with a full Associate of Applied Science in Legal Studies.
Admission to the program calls for the student to have a high school diploma or GED. Some of the classes covered by the program include all the following:
Students also complete an off campus externship with a local employer that gives them real world experience that can prove invaluable.
In terms of tuition, as this is a traditional college degree program federal student aid is available to those who qualify and, in 2020, for in state students the cost per credit of attendance is $252.28 per credit hour, equaling around $5,051 for the legal studies program itself. The additional education credits required for a degree to be granted will add to those costs, as will the cost of books and supplies.
NorthWest Arkansas Community College
Programs offered: AAS degree in Paralegal Studies
Accreditation: ABA accreditation
Website: Visit now
This is another completely campus based program that leads to an AAS degree in Paralegal Studies in four semesters. The program is designed to offer a rounded educational introduction to the law and to the everyday responsibilities a paralegal can expect to be given. To be admitted students must hold a high school diploma or GED.
The program covers the following and more:
To complete their degree students must also earn general education credits in set English, math and computer science modules. Most instruction is conducted on campus although some general education modules can be completed online.
Tuition is charged on a per credit basis, the rate of which for an in state student in 2020 is $252.28. This is a 60 credit course, equaling an approximate total tuition bill of $15,136. Federal student financial aid is available to those who qualify and for those who do not private loans may be available to help pay for schooling.
National Paralegal College
Programs offered: Certificate in Paralegal Studies
Accreditation: Distance Education Accrediting Commission
Website: Visit now
National Paralegal College is an online only school offering paralegal education on a nationwide basis. In addition to formal AAS and BA in Paralegal Studies courses, that do have a physical campus requirement that is difficult to meet in Arkansas they offer an online only Certificate in Paralegal Studies.
The program can be completed in as little as 9-12 months, and covers the following areas of study and more:
By the time they graduate from the program students will have the basic knowledge they need to obtain an entry level job as a paralegal in a number of different legal environments. It should be noted that it is unlikely that credits earned towards this certificate will be transferable to an AAS program.
The total cost of the Paralegal Certificate program in 2020 is $4,202. Federal financial aid is not available for this certificate program, but a payment plan can be established to spread out the cost, and you may be able to obtain a private student loan from an institution like Sallie Mae.
Paralegal scholarships in Arkansas
Most students appreciate the helping financial hand scholarships can offer, and it can pay to take the time to look for paralegal scholarships in Arkansas you may be able to take advantage of.
One place to start is with the National Federation of Paralegal Association. They do not offer scholarships directly, but do partner with organizations that do and make that information available to their members.
In addition, especially for AAS programs, paralegal schools in Arkansas themselves will usually have information available about any local scholarship opportunities students may be eligible for. These are often provided by local law firms and other community associations and even private donors. When applying to the paralegal school of your choice is Arkansas don't forget to ask the Admissions Office about any scholarships you might be eligible for.