The legal field offers a wide range of career opportunities for people interested in the legal system. You don't always need to have a career as a lawyer, judge or a paralegal to work in law. If you think that you'd enjoy performing office-related tasks in a legal environment, continue reading to learn more about what it takes to become an administrative legal assistant.
An administrative legal assistant provides support to lawyers and law firm personnel by performing a variety of job duties, such as preparing legal documents, assisting with legal research and organizing legal records. You'll need to possess a good understanding of legal terminology and be proficient in using legal software to be successful in this job. You'll also need excellent typing skills and knowledge of legal proceedings to prepare and draft necessary documents. As a legal secretary or legal assistant, you might support a single lawyer or work for multiple lawyers and paralegals in a law firm, corporation or other institution.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that administrative assistants and secretaries were expected to have a high number of job openings despite an average anticipated growth rate (www.bls.gov). According to the BLS, administrative assistant jobs were projected to increase 11%, though the legal field could see demand for specialized professionals grow as much as 18%. The BLS further reported that legal secretaries earned a median annual income of $41,500 in 2010. The largest employers were legal firms and services, though natural gas distributors paid the highest average salaries to administrative legal assistants.
There are various educational routes that you can take to become an administrative legal assistant. A diploma program or a legal administrative assistant certificate program could be useful if you have some general secretarial or office experience and you want to develop an expertise in the legal field. Earning an administrative legal assistant associate's degree could improve your marketability and transfer into a bachelor's degree program, which is a common requirement for executive legal assistants.
In a legal assistant program you'll be taught specialized office skills and procedures for legal document drafting, litigation preparation and legal research. You can find some programs that offer coursework online, though many also include an internship opportunity to give you practical, hands-on training. After successful completion of your program, you could qualify to work as an administrative legal assistant at corporations, law firms, government agencies and real estate offices, among other organizations.
With experience and/or education, you could enhance your job opportunities with a voluntary professional credential. The National Association of Legal Secretaries (NALS) offers the Accredited Legal Secretary (ALS) and the Professional Legal Secretary (PLS) designations for legal assistants. Qualifications typically include experience, though you can substitute some of this requirement with a degree in legal assisting (www.nals.org). Alternatively, you could obtain the Certified Legal Secretary Specialist (CLSS) designation offered by Legal Secretaries International Inc. Like NALS eligibility requirements, you'll need experience, though you can reduce the qualifying standard with a degree in the field (www.legalsecretaries.org).