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Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Athens AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important issues to think about also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Athens AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few Athens AL law practices 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 excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while still in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Athens AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from one state to another, it might be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to first investigate those colleges that are within the Athens AL area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help reduce part of the expense, so be sure to talk to the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Athens AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, some of these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Athens AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you enroll in offers that option. Last, ask what the process is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family obligations.