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Points to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Leeds AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other important factors to research also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. 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 also. Numerous Leeds AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Leeds AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Leeds AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid 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 Located? Because laws vary from one state to another, it might be beneficial to select a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to initially consider those schools that are within the Leeds AL area.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be available to help minimize part of the cost, so make sure to talk to the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Leeds AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, some of these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Leeds AL, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in offers that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family obligations.