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Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Guntersville AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important factors to consider as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency 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 education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Guntersville AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school 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 confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Guntersville AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Guntersville AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary from one state to another, it might be advantageous to select a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to initially consider those colleges that are within the Guntersville AL region.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be obtainable to help reduce part of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Guntersville AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, some of these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Guntersville AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you choose offers that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family obligations.