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Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Birmingham AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial factors to consider as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Birmingham AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Birmingham AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Birmingham AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from state to state, it might be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially look at those schools that are within the Birmingham AL region.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be available to help minimize part of the cost, so be sure to consult with the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Birmingham AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Birmingham AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you select makes available that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.