Updated January 2024
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. 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 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. Several years of experience in varying legal assistant positions, plus some 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 graduates who are now working in their field 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? Look to each school's website for testimonials and reviews from current and past students.
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 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 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 four and six weeks, and completing this on-the-job training should be a mandatory graduation requirement.
Ask college representatives about where you might expect to complete your practicum, how many total hours will be required, and if the placement will demand a full-time commitment.
Once 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 for more details about what legal assistant training entails? Want more information about starting a legal career?
Take a look at Herzing College's legal assistant diploma program, delivered online. Visit the program page for a detailed course list or to chat live with a knowledgeable advisor. We're here to help!