Multiple program options are available for law office assistants including certificates and associate's degrees. These programs generally give students a basic understanding of law practices, as well as general legal knowledge. Typically, certificate programs have a duration of one year, while associate's degrees take two years.
Both programs require students to possess a high school diploma or equivalent. Students pursuing the associate's degree track will likely need to complete an internship as part of the program requirements. Professional certification as a legal assistant is optional, but may be attractive to employers to demonstrate knowledge of skills.
Certificate of Completion - Legal Assistant
The legal assistant certification program train students for work in law offices through classroom learning and hands-on office training. Students will be expected to complete classes pertaining to a basic understanding of legal procedures, as well as demonstrate competence in word processing applications. Graduates of the program are prepared for receptionist positions in legal offices. Students in legal assistant certificate programs build strong interpersonal skills and legal knowledge. These skills are developed in the following courses:
- Processing legal documents
- Legal terminology
- Business math
- Litigation practices
- Legal research
Associate in Applied Science - Legal Administrative Assistant
Legal administrative assistant associate degree programs provide students with focused instruction on office duties and legal procedures. Within the program, students receive hands-on training in transcription, handling legal documents, office correspondence and other procedural tasks. Undergraduates will also be expected to demonstrate business management principles and leadership skills. Associate degree program students will complete core general education and explore legal practices and procedures. Students are also expected to understand court rules and legal terminology. Typical courses that students may take include:
- Transcription machine
- Business communications
- Court rules
- Legal formatting and technology
- Office practice
Professional Certification and Continuing Education Information
An associate degree allows students in a legal administrative assistant program to obtain more focused skills in legal procedure. These skills lead to enhanced salaries and career opportunities.
Although it is not required by most employers, students can receive certification through the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) to become a Certified Legal Assistant. Students may also choose to continue legal studies for a bachelor's degree in paralegal studies.
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
Law office assistants, also known as legal assistants, are the front desk receptionist in a law office that manages most of the general office duties, such as answering phones, transcribing, preparing legal documentation and filing. They can find employment opportunities in law offices, corporate legal departments and government agencies. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, legal assistants and paralegals can expect a 8% increase in demand between 2014 and 2024. The mean earnings, also reported by the bureau, were $52,390 in May 2015.
Legal secretaries can find employment in law firms, corporate legal departments and throughout the government. The bureau expects demand for legal secretaries to decrease by 4% between 2014 and 2024. Additionally, according to the bureau, the mean full-time wage for legal secretaries in May 2015 was $46,470.
Of the two careers, legal assistants earn a higher mean salary and employment is projected to increase over the next decade, while the job market for legal secretaries will contract. Earning professional certification through NALA will provide students with an even more appealing resume and should help improve job prospects and career advancement.