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Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Andalusia AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important factors to consider as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a reputable 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 distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Andalusia AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Andalusia AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Andalusia AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Since laws differ from one state to another, it might be advantageous to select a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to build relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially consider those colleges that are within the Andalusia AL area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help reduce some of the expense, so don't forget to contact the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Andalusia AL. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, some of these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Andalusia AL, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you select offers that option. Finally, find out what the process is for making up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family obligations.