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What to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Montgomery AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important aspects to research also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Montgomery AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, 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 several Montgomery AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Montgomery AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ among states, it might be a good idea to select a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to first consider those schools that are within the Montgomery AL region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be accessible to help offset part of the expense, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Montgomery AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, some of these added expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Montgomery AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in provides that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making-up missed classes due to work, illness or family emergencies.