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Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Pinson AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective 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 critical aspects to think about also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency 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 targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Pinson AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually available only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Pinson AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while attending school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Pinson AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement 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 corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws vary among states, it might be beneficial to select a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, it will be important to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the area where you wish to practice. 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 wish to first look at those schools that are within the Pinson AL region.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential earned and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be available to help minimize part of the expense, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Pinson AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Pinson AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in offers that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family obligations.