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Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Bay Minette AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial factors to consider also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Bay Minette AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Bay Minette AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while attending school. They can also provide a means for students to start developing contacts within the Bay Minette AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ from one state to another, it may be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to first consider those schools that are within the Bay Minette AL area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help reduce some of the cost, so don't forget to talk to the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Bay Minette AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, some of these additional expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Bay Minette AL, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select makes available that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.