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What to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Jacksonville AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant aspects to research as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a reputable 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 targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Jacksonville AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Jacksonville AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while still in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Jacksonville AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Since laws vary among states, it may be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to initially consider those colleges that are within the Jacksonville AL region.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be accessible to help offset some of the cost, so don't forget to contact the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Jacksonville AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, some of these added expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Jacksonville 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 offers that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.