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Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Florence AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most prospective 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 as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Florence AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Florence AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Florence AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ among states, it might be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, it will be important to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to initially consider those colleges that are within the Florence AL area.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help reduce some of the expense, so be sure to check with the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Florence AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near 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 choose offers that option. Last, find out what the process is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family obligations.