Legal Administration Degree and Certificate Program Overviews
Legal administrators assist attorneys with research and preparations, as well help oversee the daily operations of a law firm. Legal administration degree and certificate programs prepare individuals for positions such as legal secretary, legal assistant, paralegal or law office administrator.
Careers in legal administration require varied levels of education and experience, and different law firms may have different requirements based on their expectations for a particular position. Legal administration positions require employees to be technology-savvy with good research and writing skills. Coursework within a legal administration program will involve subjects such as legal research and writing, law administration procedures and accounting for legal practices. Additionally, voluntary certification is available, which can help graduates stand out in their chosen profession.
- Program Levels: Bachelor's, master's, graduate certificate.
- Legal Administration Program Fields: Legal administration, legal studies, business administration.
- Prerequisites: High school diploma or GED; undergraduate degree is required for admission at the graduate level.
- Online Availability: Commonly available online.
- Other Requirements: Bachelor's programs may expect completion of internship experiences.
Bachelor's Degrees in Legal Administration
In addition to a legal office administration major, students can also concentrate their studies in administration through a bachelor's degree program in legal studies. Many programs include an internship or practicum to apply skills learned in a legal environment and gain knowledge from experienced professionals. A 4-year bachelor's degree program typically has no prerequisites aside from a high school education; however, if an applicant enrolls in a 2-year completion program, an associate's degree is required.
Bachelor's degree programs are designed to introduce students to the U.S. justice system and outline the function and purpose of lawyers and courts. Students learn how to perform case research and manage administrative and technical aspects of a law office. Courses typically cover the following subjects:
- Legal research
- Law office management
- Accounting for legal practices
- Law firm marketing
- Law office technology
Master's Degrees in Legal Administration
Master's degree programs in legal administration could include specialized education in law office, U.S. court or international court administration. Moreover, many Master of Arts in Legal Studies and Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree programs offer concentrations in legal administration. A master's degree can usually be earned in two years, and some schools provide online learning.
Prospective students usually need to submit scores from a graduate school entrance exam and an essay describing their interest in the field in addition to education requirements. MBA students are recommended to have at least two years' work experience before enrolling in the program.
Business-oriented curricula, such as that found in MBA programs, focus on business management, marketing, finance and accounting. Concentrated studies include courses in law office management, research and legal writing. Legal administration courses teach the fundamentals of working with clients, overseeing law office employees and operating a law office. Some common course topics include:
- Information technology for law offices
- Law office financial management
- Legal administration procedures and research
- Communicating with courts
- Methods for recruiting law firm employees
- Law office facility management
Graduate Certificate in Legal Administration
Post-baccalaureate certificate programs in legal administration are ideal for those who don't want to complete a graduate degree or hold a degree in another field. Some schools offer training that prepares students for paralegal certification.
Some schools recommend law office or legal administration experience in addition to degree requirements. Without the necessary background, completion of introductory courses in computer science is generally required.
Some legal administration certificate programs allow students to select coursework to meet career needs, such as legal specialty education, paralegal studies or legal office management courses. Common topics include:
- Legal writing and research
- Judicial processes
- World judicial systems
- Survey of courts
Popular Career Options
Many graduates with a bachelor's degree can qualify for office management and support positions at legal firms. Some possible job titles include:
- Legal assistant
- Legal product manager
- Legal secretary
- Law office administrator
Those currently working in a legal office that complete a certificate program have career options such as:
- Paralegal administrator
- Paralegal supervisor
- Court administrator
- Legal office manager
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) anticipated a 17% job growth for legal assistants and paralegals between 2012 and 2022 (www.bls.gov). In May 2014, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for legal secretaries was $42,770, while paralegals and legal assistants earned a median income of $48,350 per year.
Continuing Education Information
Graduates who possess a solid background in legal administration may also complete a post-baccalaureate certificate or master's degree program in administration or paralegal studies. Some degree holders also use the legal administration bachelor's program as preparation for law school.
Laws change on a regular basis, and legal administrators must keep up with the changes through continuing education. State bar associations and legal assistant organizations offer weekend courses or online seminars in a variety of legal interests. Associations such as the National Association of Legal Assistants and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations, provide professional membership and voluntary certification programs that could advance a career or improve earning potential.