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Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Hamilton AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial factors 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 should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Hamilton AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Hamilton AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer 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 offer an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Hamilton AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing 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 corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ from one state to another, it might be a good idea to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to first consider those schools that are within the Hamilton AL area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be available to help reduce part of the cost, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Hamilton AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, some of these additional expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Hamilton AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you select offers that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making-up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.