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What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Cottonwood AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important factors to think about also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Cottonwood AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Cottonwood AZ law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also present a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Cottonwood AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it might be a good idea to choose a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you want to practice after graduation. Also, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the community 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 wish to first investigate those colleges that are within the Cottonwood AZ area.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help minimize some of the cost, so don't forget to contact the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Cottonwood AZ. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, some of these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Cottonwood AZ, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you choose makes available that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.