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Questions to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Juneau AK area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical factors to think about also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a respected organization 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 education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Juneau AK law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is an excellent 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 call some Juneau AK law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while attending school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Juneau AK legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering 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 Alaska legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it may be advantageous to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you want to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the area where you want to work. 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 want to first consider those schools that are within the Juneau AK area.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be obtainable to help offset some of the cost, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Juneau AK. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Juneau AK, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you select makes available that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making-up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.