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Points to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Trussville AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other important factors to research as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at some 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 program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Trussville AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Trussville AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also provide a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Trussville AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. 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 indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws differ from one state to another, it may be a good idea to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to build relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to initially consider those colleges that are within the Trussville AL region.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be obtainable to help minimize some of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Trussville AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, some of these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Trussville AL, make certain 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. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.