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Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Mobile AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly 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 driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant issues to think about also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a recognized organization 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 focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Mobile AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, 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 contact some Mobile AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Mobile AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it may be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to build relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially look at those colleges that are within the Mobile AL region.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential earned 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 might be available to help minimize some of the expense, so don't forget to contact the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Mobile AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Mobile AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you choose offers that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.