- We use real lawyers as instructors.
- Our materials use and amplify the curriculum from NALS... the National Association of Legal Professionals, and we prepare our students to take the NALS national certification test.
- Our course includes vignettes, practical experiences, and case studies to reinforce and amplify the material.
- Live contact with our instructors is built in to the program.
- Our materials are interesting and engaging.
- We include a hefty dose of written communications skill-building using the Gregg Reference Manual and its associated diagnostic tests and topic-area worksheets. The written communications part of our program is essentially a course within a course designed especially to help students pass Part I of the ALP Exam, Written Communications.
- Our course has helped numerous students pass the ALP Exam; our pass rate is excellent.
Our tuition includes the cost of the text, Basic Manual for the Lawyer's Assistant (BMLA), written by NALS. (Lawyer's assistant is a "new" term for legal secretary, though legal secretary is more commonly known.) The tuition also includes the Student Study Guide that complements the BMLA. (Students should purchase the 11th edition of the Gregg Reference Manual on their own if they do not already own a copy.)
Our tuition also provides students access to Stetson's password-protected Blackboard learning management system to see Microsoft PowerPoint presentations for each lesson. On the site, there is also legal terminology, review questions, and relevant stories that reinforce each lesson. Chapter quizzes further measure student understanding of concepts and applications. Once chapter quizzes are taken, students get immediate feedback on their score and any areas they might have missed.
Regular contact with instructors is built into the program. Students are not sent into a course that is on autopilot -- instructors and Stetson program administrators take a personal interest in each student.
This course is for you if you are in a law office and want to expand your potential or if you are not currently in the field but want to have a career as a lawyer's assistant.
NALS is dedicated to enhancing the competencies and contributions of members in the legal services profession. NALS accomplishes its mission and supports the public interest through continuing legal education and resource materials; networking opportunities at the local, state, regional, and national levels; commitment to a Code of Ethics and professional standards; and professional certification programs and designations.
One way to demonstrate your preparedness for the demanding field of law is by becoming an ALP. This designation is awarded after passing a four-hour, three-part examination. Attaining this goal demonstrates your commitment and aptitude for succeeding in the ever-changing legal environment.
About the Profession
Persons serving as lawyers' assistants are generally very pleased with their careers; they enjoy being valuable parts of the legal profession. In some practices, you may hear that firms will work very hard to retain a good lawyer's assistant; even more than working to retain a paralegal or even an attorney. Individual attorneys who have a good lawyer's assistant will also work hard to keep that person. While there is not much upward mobility in the career field, there are opportunities for increasingly good salaries depending on experience and the range of legal skills that the assistant has mastered.
In general, lawyers' assistants were traditionally assigned one-to-one with a lawyer, but the realities of the marketplace and the increased use of automation is moving law firms toward a ratio of one lawyer's assistant to three lawyers, though this is influenced by the type of practice. For example, litigation is more administratively intensive and the ratio of lawyers' assistants to lawyers is smaller. There is also a trend to create specialized positions such as legal file clerk and legal calendaring assistant so that lawyer's assistants can focus on the major tasks. In larger law firms, these other positions can serve as the entry level for persons new to the field.
Legal Secretaries vs. Paralegals
In law offices you will find lawyers' assistants are also known as legal secretaries and legal assistants are also known as paralegals.
So, what's the difference?
A lawyer's assistant (a.k.a. legal secretary) is a person who works in a legal department or law firm and performs highly specialized work requiring knowledge of technical terminology and procedures. For instance, lawyers' assistants prepare correspondence and legal papers such as summonses, complaints, motions, responses, and subpoenas under the supervision of an attorney or a paralegal. They also may review legal journals and assist with legal research- for example, by verifying quotes and citations in legal briefs. Additionally, lawyers' assistants often teach newly minted lawyers how to prepare documents for submission to the courts. A lawyer's assistant cannot give legal advice, represent a client in court, set a fee or accept a case which functions are generally considered the practice of law. Our program teaches you how to work as a lawyer's assistant and gives you the training to be eligible to take the NALS ALP certification examination.
A paralegal (a.k.a. legal assistant) is a person who assists an attorney in the delivery of legal services. They have the training to qualify them to do work of a legal nature under the supervision of an attorney. This person is qualified by education, training and/or work experience who is employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, governmental agency or other entity who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible. A paralegal cannot give legal advice, represent a client in court, set a fee or accept a case which functions are generally considered the practice of law. Working under the supervision of an attorney, the paralegal's work product is merged with and becomes part of the attorney work product. A paralegal may perform any function delegated by an attorney including but not limited to conducting client interviews, locating and interviewing witnesses, conducting investigations and legal research, authoring and signing correspondence provided the paralegal's status is clearly indicated and the correspondence does not contain independent legal opinions or legal advice. Our program is not a paralegal program.
Lawyer's assistants serve everywhere there are attorneys, from small offices to mega-firms. As with all fields, employers are seeking to fill vacancies with highly qualified and experienced people. In many cases large firms hire lawyer's assistants from applicants who have served in smaller firms and gained the requisite experience and skills. But large firms do hire persons with qualifications and experience who are new to the field, and we discussed possible entry level positions above. The goal of our program is to accept applicants with proven administrative experience and to give them the skills of a lawyer's assistant. We want our program graduates to be marketable to both large and small firms. In this regard we have solicited the advice and counsel of legal professionals so as to be able to deliver the best possible program.