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Things to Ask Paralegal Programs

Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Decatur AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many prospective 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 crucial issues to consider also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over a few 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 selection.

Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Decatur AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited programs.

What's the School's Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Decatur AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.

Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also present an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Decatur AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.

Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement 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 corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.

Where is the School Located? Since laws differ from one state to another, it may be a good idea to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, it will be important to establish relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to first investigate those schools that are within the Decatur AL region.

What is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be accessible to help reduce some of the cost, so don't forget to talk to the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Decatur AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.

Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Decatur AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you select provides that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family obligations.

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