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Questions to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Fairhope AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical factors to think about also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a reputable 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 targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Fairhope AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Fairhope AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also present a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Fairhope AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering 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 well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Since laws differ from state to state, it may be advantageous to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to first investigate those schools that are within the Fairhope AL region.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be accessible to help reduce part of the cost, so don't forget to consult with the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Fairhope AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Fairhope AL, make sure 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. Finally, inquire what the process is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.