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Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Atmore AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial issues to think about also, including the reputation and accreditation 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 final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Atmore AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Atmore AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. 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 Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Atmore AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ among states, it may be advantageous to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the area where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to first consider those schools that are within the Atmore AL area.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help minimize part of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Atmore AL. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Atmore AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you select makes available that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making-up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.