Nearly all law offices or legal departments require that their legal administrators have a bachelor's degree or its equivalent in education and work experiences. Since legal administrators deal with business and personnel management, it may be helpful to obtain a degree in business administration. In addition, some universities offer degrees in legal administration. An academic program in legal administration may offer classes in legal research, different types of legal codes, legal ethics, legal writing, escrow, torts, record keeping and purchasing procedures.
It's important to develop computer skills. Most legal administration work requires a relatively high level of computer skills. Legal administrators may be responsible for compiling, organizing and maintaining electronic records of cases or contracts. They may be expected to conduct research using legal databases. Legal administrators are also likely to use a wide variety of software programs for billing, email, accounting and word processing. Some legal administrators might consider taking basic computer courses while in college to improve computer proficiency.
Most employers prefer candidates who have some amount of relevant work experience. A prospective legal administrator may find it helpful to work as an entry-level secretary or legal assistant in a law office to gain experience working in a legal setting. Another option might be to enter into an internship program for legal or administrative assistants. The clerical and administrative skills gained from such employment, as well as improved familiarity with the legal profession, are likely to improve future employment opportunities for aspiring legal administrators.
Think about joining a professional organization. Professional organizations, such as the Association of Legal Administrators (ALA), offer valuable resources to individuals wishing to enter this field, including webinars, conferences, a professional journal, a job bank and networking opportunities. These resources may give prospective legal administrators the professional edge they need to advance in this field.
Once a prospective legal administrator has gained some experience as an administrative or legal assistant, she or he may be ready to advance to a position as a legal administrator. Such an individual would be in charge of the management responsibilities for a legal office of some kind. Possible work environments include private law firms, legal service clinics, government agencies and civil courts. Sometimes corporations, charities and educational entities employ legal administrators to handle official contracts and other legal documents. Legal administrators may also administer payroll, supervise financial reporting and oversee billing, collections and purchasing.
While certification in this field is not a necessity, it may be helpful in demonstrating value to prospective employers. ALA offers a Certified Legal Manager (CLM) designation. The CLM designation is awarded following the fulfilment of certain education requirements and the passing of a multiple-choice examination.
To recap, with a bachelor's degree and experience in the field, a legal administrator can earn about $62,000 a year to oversee budgeting and payroll operations, manage office space arrangements, gather supplies and oversee other clerical employees in the legal department.