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Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Opelika AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other crucial aspects to think about as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Opelika AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often available only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Opelika AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while still in school. They can also present a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Opelika AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws differ among states, it may be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the community where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Opelika AL region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be accessible to help offset some of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Opelika AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Opelika AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you enroll in offers that option. Finally, find out what the process is for making up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.