While online certificate or associate's degree programs are more common for legal secretaries, bachelor's degree programs in legal studies or legal assisting are available. These programs take about four years to complete and are available in fully online formats. However, shorter programs are available for associate's degree holders. Related certificates are also available.
Legal Secretary Degree
While most online legal secretary educational programs are found in associate's degree or certificate programs, legal secretaries desiring further online education can pursue a bachelor's degree in legal studies. Students learn about the legal systems, methodologies in law, law concepts and ethics. Graduates are typically awarded a Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies. Bachelor's degree programs may be an extension of an associate's degree program and are usually not considered pre-law.
Program Information and Requirements
These online bachelor's degree programs normally take four years to complete, just like a traditional program. Students must complete approximately 120 credits of coursework, with specific amounts in general education, elective and major classes. The entire program can normally be completed online using a personal computer and Internet connection. Participants also need access to e-mail for communication with peers and instructors. Some schools use a specific educational delivery system, such as Blackboard Online. Many instructors may require students to participate in online discussions through message boards and chat rooms.
List of Common Courses
Coursework in these online programs vary by school; however, typical topics include legal research, writing, ethics and evidence. Students also focus on areas involving business law, torts, criminal law and litigation.
Legal Writing and Research
Effective legal document writing and research techniques are introduced in this course. Students also explore law library components and research topics of analysis, citations, statutes, publications, sources and digests.
Criminal Law Procedures
This course studies the theory and application of the substantive and procedural aspects of criminal law. Topics include crimes and defenses, penalties, punishments and court procedures. Students also learn about practical research and analysis skills using real case assignments.
Evidence and Law
The use and importance of evidence to the American Legal System is explored using practical information and federal rules. Students are also trained on laws governing admissibility and the role of assistants in gathering evidence to prepare attorneys for trial.
Career Information for Graduates
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that employment of all secretaries is expected to grow by 3% between 2014 and 2024, which is slower than average for all occupations (www.bls.gov). The outlook for legal secretaries was projected to decline by 4% during the same period. The BLS reported a median annual salary of $43,200 for legal secretaries as of May 2015.
Continuing Education Information
Voluntary certification is available to legal secretaries, which offer an advantage in employment and career advancement. The National Association of Legal Secretaries (NALS) offers both a basic certification of Accredited Legal Secretary (ALS) and advanced certification of Professional Legal Secretary (PLS). In order to earn this certification, applicants must complete specific educational, experiential and exam requirements.
Online bachelor's degree programs in legal studies or legal assisting are available and can prep students to work as law secretaries. Students will develop legal writing skills and learn about evidence development and criminal law procedures.