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Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Dixiana AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical aspects to research also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program 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 might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Dixiana AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically available only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. 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 education exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Dixiana AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Dixiana AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary from state to state, it may be a good idea to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to first consider those schools that are within the Dixiana AL region.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can vary 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 also. Financial assistance might be available to help reduce some of the expense, so don't forget to consult with the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Dixiana AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these additional expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Dixiana AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you select offers that option. Last, find out what the process is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family obligations.