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Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Sheffield AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must know 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 the majority of prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical issues to consider as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Sheffield AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Sheffield AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to start creating contacts within the Sheffield AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Because laws vary from state to state, it may be advantageous to select a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to create relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially look at those colleges that are within the Sheffield AL area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be available to help offset part of the expense, so be sure to consult with the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Sheffield AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, some of these added expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Sheffield AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you choose makes available that option. Finally, inquire what the procedure is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.