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Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Maricopa AZ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree 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 covered, there are other significant factors to research as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a highly regarded organization 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 distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Maricopa AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually available only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Maricopa AZ law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while still in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Maricopa AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary among states, it may be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you want to work after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to build relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you desire to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to first consider those schools that are within the Maricopa AZ area.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be obtainable to help offset some of the expense, so don't forget to talk to the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Maricopa AZ. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, some of these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Maricopa AZ, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in offers that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.