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What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs

Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Helena AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant factors to think about as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.

Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a respected 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 focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Helena AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.

What's the School's Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including 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 Helena AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.

Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also present a means for students to start developing contacts within the Helena AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.

Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.

Where is the School's Location? Because laws vary among states, it may be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to build relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the area where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to first investigate those colleges that are within the Helena AL area.

How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be obtainable to help reduce part of the expense, so don't forget to consult with the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Helena AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, some of these added expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.

Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Helena AL, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family obligations.

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