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Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Phenix City AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial issues to consider also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Phenix City AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Phenix City AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Phenix City AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Because laws vary from one state to another, it might be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to first look at those colleges that are within the Phenix City AL area.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be obtainable to help minimize part of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Phenix City AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Phenix City AL, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Last, find out what the process is for making-up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.