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What to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Mountain Brook AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important factors to research as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Mountain Brook AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose 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 several Mountain Brook AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Mountain Brook AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing 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 good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it may be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you want to practice 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 acquire your education in the area where you desire 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 may need to first look at those colleges that are within the Mountain Brook AL region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help minimize part of the cost, so don't forget to talk to the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Mountain Brook AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Mountain Brook AL, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you select offers that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making-up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.