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Questions to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Gadsden AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. 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 already covered, there are other critical factors to consider also, such as 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 considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Gadsden AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Gadsden AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Gadsden AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws differ from one state to another, it might be advantageous to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be important to build relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area 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 might wish to initially look at those colleges that are within the Gadsden AL area.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount 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 also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help minimize part of the expense, so don't forget to check with the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Gadsden AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Gadsden AL, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you select makes available that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.