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Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Homewood AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include 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 research also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also receive 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 get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Homewood AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Homewood AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also offer a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Homewood AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ among states, it might be advantageous to select a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to first consider those schools that are within the Homewood AL area.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be obtainable to help offset some of the cost, so be sure to check with the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Homewood AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Homewood AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you choose offers that option. Last, find out what the process is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.