5 Points to Consider When Choosing a Legal Assistant Program

legal assistant trainingThe job market for legal assistants in Winnipeg is very strong. The latest jobs analysis by Statistics Canada shows steady growth for this occupation in Manitoba, citing large numbers of upcoming retirements and growing demand for legal services as key drivers for the positive outlook.

When the last employment survey was done in December 2016, it showed the vast majority of people working as legal assistants in Winnipeg have college diplomas (50%) , versus a bachelor degree (9%) or a high school diploma (22%). College-level training is the fastest, most effective way to secure entry-level legal assistant positions at law firms, corporate legal departments, government offices, municipal, provincial, federal courts, and more. And there is no shortage of legal diploma programs available to students who want to capitalize on available job opportunities in Winnipeg. But which attributes should they look for when comparing schools? What key markers of quality are most important to consider when choosing a legal assistant program?

While narrowing down the options, students should be careful to notice - and ask about - these following five indicators of a reliable legal assistant program.

1. Curriculum: Comprehensive Training in Most Relevant Skill Areas

The primary responsibility of a legal assistant is to support lawyers with administrative and secretarial tasks. These include proofreading documents, such as deeds, wills, affidavits, and briefs; maintaining client records; scheduling appointments and conferences; and coordinating with other departments or professionals.

The legal assistant program you select should offer coursework that covers the areas of law you will most likely work with after graduation, as well as the knowledge and skills needed to perform common legal administrative tasks. Courses should include instruction in:

  • Family law
  • Wills and estates
  • Corporate law
  • Real estate
  • Tort law
  • Preparing legal documents
  • Legal records management (including handling confidential information)
  • Ethical obligations relevant to working in a legal office
  • Reception procedures
  • Managing appointments (entering, editing, and moving appointments using office software)
  • Billing procedures

 Of course, while a comprehensive curriculum is important, your learning experience (and acquired skills) will be heavily influenced by who is delivering the program. Be sure to ask about the professional expertise and teaching experience of the instructors at each college you're considering. Ten or more years of experience in varying legal assistant positions, plus several years of teaching experience, is a good baseline for comparison.

2. Credibility: High Graduate Employment Rates 

Another good way to evaluate the quality of the legal assistant curriculum (and instructor) is by asking for each school's graduate employment rates. This term refers to the percentage of program graduates who are now working as legal assistants after completing training. Since the goal is to secure work in your field quickly after graduation, this information should be a key factor in your decision-making process.

Graduate employment rates should be easily found on the college website; but if not, ask for this number during the inquiry process.

3. Reputation: Positive Reviews from Legal Assistant Students

Want to know more about the overall student experience at the legal assistant colleges you're considering in Winnipeg? Look to each school's website for testimonials and reviews from current and past students. You might see a Google Reviews button on the program page, which you can click to find many student reviews all in one place.

Or, take some time to scroll through each college's social media accounts for student feedback and a glimpse of life on campus. When assessing reputation, be sure to notice (or ask about) how long the college has been in operation. While the number itself may not make or break your decision, it will speak to the college's longevity and track record of success within the Winnipeg community.

Long-standing and reputable institutions tend to attract the most qualified instructors, and provide the most up-to-date classroom facilities and campus resources.

4. Flexibility: Options for Online Legal Assistant Courses

Do you know if the legal assistant programs you're considering offer flexible program delivery? This is especially important for students who must work full or part time while pursuing their studies, and for anyone with children or other family responsibilities.

The option to take online legal assistant courses, or to combine on-campus and online training, is a tremendous advantage for students with demanding schedules.

5. Internship: Guaranteed Work Placement Included in the Program

It is important for prospective legal assistant students to inquire about whether an internship is included in the program they are considering. Typical practicum lengths run between 4-6 weeks, and completing this on-the-job training should be a mandatory graduation requirement.

Ask college representatives about where in Winnipeg you might expect to complete your practicum, how many total hours will be required, and if the placement will demand a full time commitment.

One you've collected answers to these questions, and completed a campus visit to your top colleges, you should have a very good idea of which legal assistant program best fits your needs.

Looking more details about what legal assistant training entails? Want more information about starting a legal career in Winnipeg?

Take a look at Herzing College's Legal Assistant diploma program, delivered at the Winnipeg campus. Visit the program page for a detailed course list, career paths, graduate placement rates, or to chat live with a knowledgeable advisor. We're here to help!

Learn More About Legal Assistant Training at Herzing