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What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs

Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Southside AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important aspects to research as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.

Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Southside AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.

What's the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Southside AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which 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 excellent reputation.

Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Southside AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.

Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. 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 an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.

Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary among states, it may be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to build relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the area where you wish 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 may need to first look at those schools that are within the Southside AL area.

How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential earned and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be available to help reduce some of the cost, so don't forget to check with the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Southside AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.

Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Southside AL, verify classes are offered 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, ask what the protocol is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.

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