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Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Flagstaff AZ 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 add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many 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 important factors to think about also, such as accreditation and the reputation 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 final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Flagstaff AZ 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 schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose 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 contact several Flagstaff AZ law offices 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 the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Flagstaff AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ from one state to another, it may be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to initially investigate those schools that are within the Flagstaff AZ region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. However, 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 may be obtainable to help reduce part of the expense, so don't forget to consult with the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Flagstaff AZ. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, some of these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Flagstaff AZ, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you choose offers that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.