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What to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Rainbow City AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most 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 issues to research also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Rainbow City AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Rainbow City AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Rainbow City AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs 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 substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws differ among states, it might be a good idea to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduation. Also, it will be important to create relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to first investigate those schools that are within the Rainbow City AL region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential earned 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 may be obtainable to help minimize some of the cost, so be sure to talk to the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Rainbow City AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, some of these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Rainbow City AL, verify classes are offered 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 protocol is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.