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Questions to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the East Florence AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you add 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 commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important aspects to consider also, for instance accreditation and the reputation 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 properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a respected organization 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 focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of East Florence AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is a good 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 East Florence AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the East Florence AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it may be a good idea to choose a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduation. Also, it will be important to build relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to first investigate those colleges that are within the East Florence AL area.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential received and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help reduce some of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school's financial aid office to see what is available in East Florence AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near East Florence AL, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making up missed classes due to sickness, work or family emergencies.