Here are some important factors to consider in evaluating the quality of paralegal programs:
- What is the reputation of the institution and the paralegal program?
- What services are offered to students?
- What facilities are available to students?
- What activities are available to students?
- What is the mission of the institution and what are the goals of the program?
- What is the content and nature of the curriculum?
- What are the graduation requirements?
- What are the backgrounds of the program director and faculty?
- What are the special considerations of enrolling in a distance education program?
1. What is the reputation of the institution and the paralegal program?
The general public and the legal community should hold the institution offering the program and the program itself in high regard. Check with people you know in the community, in the legal field and in higher education for information.
2. What services are offered to students?
Assistance should be offered in these areas: orientation, tutoring, academic counseling, financial aid, career information and counseling, and placement assistance. Information on the placement rate and job satisfaction of graduates should be available.
3. What facilities are available to students?
Programs should have a legal research library, computer laboratories, and properly furnished classrooms. Facilities should accommodate students with disabilities.
4. What activities are available to students?
Students should have the opportunity to participate in such activities as honor societies and volunteer work in the legal community. Information about paralegal associations and opportunities for continuing paralegal education should be available.
5. What is the mission of the institution and what are the goals of the program?
The mission and goals should be clearly stated in the institutional and program literature. You should carefully assess whether the mission and goals match your individual needs.
6. What is the content and nature of the curriculum?
The courses should teach practical job skills in conjunction with the underlying legal theory. The curriculum should cover legal research and writing, litigation, ethics, contracts, business organizations and torts. Courses should develop students' critical thinking, communication, computational, computer and organizational skills, and competency to handle ethical issues. Programs should offer an experiential learning component such as an internship, practicum or clinical experience.
7. What are the graduation requirements?
Students should be required to take both paralegal and general education courses unless students have completed general education prior to enrollment.
8. What are the backgrounds of the program director and faculty?
The program director and members of the faculty should possess appropriate academic credentials. Most program directors have a law degree or formal paralegal education; some have advanced degrees in related areas. Many have experience in the legal field. Faculty members should have expertise and experience in the subject areas they teach and experience working with or as paralegals. The program director and faculty must be committed to the role of the paralegal in the delivery of legal services.
9. What are the special considerations of enrolling in a distance education program?
A growing number of educational institutions and other providers are offering paralegal courses and/or entire paralegal programs through distance education. Prospective students need to supplement the above criteria with additional factors when evaluating these offerings. You should find out the type of distance delivery system used, such as interactive video broadcasts to distant sites, telecourses, or web-based courses on the Internet and determine whether the institution provides training to students in using the system and technical assistance throughout the course. You should find out how much interaction takes place among teachers and students during courses and through what medium. Additionally you should assess whether you are well suited to learn through a distance delivery system which requires a high degree of self-discipline, self-motivation and independence.
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