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What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs

Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Palmer AK area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical factors to research also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.

Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, 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 training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Palmer AK law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often available only for accredited programs.

What's the School's Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Palmer AK law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.

Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while attending school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Palmer AK legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.

Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and sought after.

Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it might be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to create relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the community where you want to work. 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 might need to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Palmer AK area.

How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be accessible to help offset some of the expense, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Palmer AK. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.

Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Palmer AK, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in provides that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.

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