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Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Irondale AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical aspects to research as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also receive 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 receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Irondale AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Irondale AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also provide a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Irondale AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary among states, it may be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to first investigate those colleges that are within the Irondale AL area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help minimize some of the expense, so don't forget to check with the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Irondale AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Irondale AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in provides that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.