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Points to Ask Paralegal Schools

Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Huntsville AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can compare 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 potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other significant factors to think about as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate choice.

Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Huntsville AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically offered only for accredited programs.

What's the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few Huntsville AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.

Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also present an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Huntsville AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.

Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.

Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ among states, it may be advantageous to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the community 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 want to initially look at those schools that are within the Huntsville AL region.

How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be obtainable to help reduce part of the cost, so don't forget to check with the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Huntsville AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, some of these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.

Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Huntsville AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you choose makes available that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making-up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.

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