Online diploma programs for legal secretaries are relatively rare, but a few can be found. Online certificate programs in the field are more readily available. Both diploma and certificate programs can typically be completed in a fully online format, with no on-campus attendance required. Coursework covers the basics of the legal system, as well as office management. Upon graduation, students may consider pursuing certification; although professional certification for legal secretaries is voluntary, it may be preferred by employers.
Legal Secretary Programs
Legal secretaries work in law offices assisting lawyers with everything from legal research to billing. Although online legal secretary diploma programs do exist, they are not common. More readily available, however, are online legal secretary certificate programs. Certificate programs are generally designed for both beginning and experienced secretaries who wish to improve their law-office skills.
Information and Requirements
Certificates may be earned completely online with student-instructor interaction facilitated by email and online discussion boards. Students typically have seven weeks to complete the program. In contrast, diploma programs may last several semesters. Though the majority of certificate programs require the purchase of textbooks, students typically email assignments and exams to their professors.
Additionally, some schools require students to have Microsoft Windows-based computers with operating systems of Windows XP or later as well as high-speed Internet access. The Microsoft Office suite of applications, such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint, is required for many certificate programs.
List of Common Legal Secretary Courses
Most certificate programs assume students have keyboarding and word-processing skills. Available diploma programs may incorporate these fundamental skills into the curriculum. Common course topics in a certificate program include legal terminology, communications, office and records management, research, accounting and ethics.
Courses in legal terminology provide students with a basic understanding of legal terms and abbreviations. Symbols and reference sources used by lawyers and the court system are also covered. Students learn terminology for varying specialties, such as wills and estates, criminal law, contracts, business organizations and family law.
In a legal communications course, students learn how to write letters as well as discovery, pleadings, notices and motions. These classes delve into legal writing style and citation format.
Law Office Management
In this class, students learn how to handle records and prepare billing documents. Reception duties, filing systems and common office procedures may be covered as well.
Upon completion of the certificate program, graduates may find work as legal secretaries or legal administrative assistants in a variety of settings. Law firms, real estate agencies, banks, corporate legal departments and government agencies are all potential employers. As of May 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that legal secretaries made a median annual wage of $36,500 (www.bls.gov). The number of employed legal secretaries was predicted to decrease by 4%, slower than the average for all occupations, from 2014-2024.
Continuing Education Information
After gaining one year of work experience as a legal secretary or passing an approved training course, individuals can pursue the Accredited Legal Secretary credential. The National Association of Legal Secretaries (NALS) administers the certification examination; passage demonstrates competency and a commitment to professional standards and ethics.
Secretaries interested in advancing their skills may earn additional certificates. For example, some schools offer certificate programs in advanced legal research and writing. These programs explore specialized research approaches in law libraries and online databases.
Online diploma and certificate programs for legal secretaries teach students how to assist lawyers and handle legal documents. Graduates may be prepared for voluntary certification.