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What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Cullman AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if 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 discussed, there are other significant aspects to research as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a respected 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 training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Cullman AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Cullman AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while attending school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Cullman AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their placement 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 students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from one state to another, it might be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to first investigate those schools that are within the Cullman AL region.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be obtainable to help offset part of the expense, so make sure to talk to the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Cullman AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Cullman AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in provides that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making-up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family obligations.