Numerous legal secretary and paralegal certificate programs are available in an all online format. Students watch live lectures on their computer to learn about legal terminology, ethics, computerized analysis, legal writing and contracts. Graduates are prepared to assist lawyers as legal secretaries or paralegals. Online certificate programs have no prerequisites for enrollment, but students do need a high-speed internet connection for viewing audio/video files.
Find schools that offer these popular programs
- Court Reporting
- Legal Administrative Assistant or Secretary
- Legal Assistant or Paralegal
Legal Secretary Certificate
An online legal secretary certificate program introduces the skills required to perform most tasks in a law office, including document preparation, invoicing and office management. Legal terminology and basic law theories are also introduced, but the certificate programs tend to be very practical and vocational in nature. Applicants to certificate programs generally must hold high school diplomas or GEDs, but no previous experience in law is required. Graduates are qualified to take entry-level legal secretary positions, and some certificate programs offer career advice or job placement services.
Program Information and Requirements
Lectures for the online legal secretary certificate programs are often delivered as audio or video files, so students should have access to a high-speed Internet connection. Textbook purchases are usually also required. Time required to complete a program depends on each student's schedule, but most can finish in 1-2 years of part-time study.
List of Common Legal Secretary Courses
Most legal secretary certificate programs begin with an introduction to legal theory, terminology and procedures to familiarize students with the aims and practices of a law office. Coursework then moves on to specific tasks that legal secretaries must complete.
Legal System Introduction
An foundational course on legal theory and practice gives students an understanding of how law offices function. Discussions cover procedures, terminology and ethics.
Law Document Preparation
A document preparation course introduces the basics of legal research and citation and discusses the format and conventions of various documents that legal secretaries draft and file. Documents discussed include pleadings, motions, briefs and memoranda.
Legal Computer Applications
A computer applications class covers the technologies that law office workers use to access and maintain information. Databases, online information repositories and special law computer programs are usually covered.
Because working as a legal secretary requires more specialized industry knowledge than a general administrative secretary position, wages and job security are relatively high. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for legal secretaries in 2015 was $43,200, compared to $33,910 for secretaries in general. Employment for legal secretaries is expected to decrease between 2014 and 2024, at a rate of about 4%.
The National Association of Legal Secretaries (NALS) offers Accredited Legal Secretary (ALS) certification to those who have completed an accredited legal secretary training program or worked in a law office for at least one year (www.nals.org). The exam for certification covers business communications, legal knowledge and ethics. More experienced workers can also apply for Professional Legal Secretary (PLS) certification, which covers more advanced topics and qualifies candidates to hold positions of greater responsibility.
Those with an interest in the legal profession might also consider studying to be a paralegal, which requires greater knowledge of legal procedures. Paralegals perform more substantive legal work with a greater degree of independence than legal secretaries. Such advancement could also lead to a significant pay increase, with the BLS noting that the 2015 median annual salary for paralegals was $48,810.
Legal secretaries need basic legal knowledge in addition to the administrative skills required of most office workplaces. Online certificate programs can provide this interdisciplinary training with courses in legal documentation, computer applications and more.