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Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Selma AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical factors to think about also, for instance 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 considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a reputable 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 focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Selma AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Selma AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start creating contacts within the Selma AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Since laws differ from state to state, it may be a good idea to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be important to build relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to first look at those schools that are within the Selma AL area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help minimize some of the cost, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Selma AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Selma AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you select provides that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.