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Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Clay AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant issues to think about as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Clay AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Clay AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also present an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Clay AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary among states, it may be beneficial to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to first consider those schools that are within the Clay AL area.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential earned and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be available to help minimize part of the expense, so don't forget to contact the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Clay AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Clay AL, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you choose offers that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family emergencies.