Becoming a Legal Office Manager: Job Description & Salary Info

About this article
What are the pros and cons of becoming a legal office manager career? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary information to see if becoming a legal office manager is for you.
View available schools

Pros and Cons of Becoming a Legal Office Manager

Legal office managers need knowledge of a number of computer programs, the ability to work with people, must be detail and deadline-oriented and, often, possess some knowledge of the law. Consider the following pros and cons to determine if a career as a legal office manager is right for you.

PROS of a Legal Office Manager Career
Won't get bored (duties include wide variety of tasks)*
Can work in many geographical locations*
No degrees required (advancement often based on experience)*
Salaries are fairly good (in 2014, the average hourly wage was $44.35)*

CONS of Legal Office Manager Career
Competition for jobs is high*
Hours can be long (with no overtime pay)*
Need experience to obtain better paying jobs*
Dependent on economy (fewer jobs in a bad economy)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Job Duties, Salary and Career Info

The job duties of legal office managers can vary widely, depending on the work environment. Essentially, managers oversee the administrative functions of a law office or legal department. This can involve bookkeeping, hiring and firing, coordinating benefits plans, organizing office functions, supervising staff and, in some cases, handling legal duties such as calendaring court deadlines, drafting legal documents and management of case files.

In smaller firms, the legal office manager is often responsible for all of the duties described above, with the ultimate responsibility to make the firm run as smoothly as possible. At larger firms or legal departments, the work can be more specialized among various office managers who report to a management supervisor or the partners. Legal office managers at one-lawyer firms often enjoy responsibility for all administrative duties, as well as the full range of legal duties typically delegated to paralegals at larger firms.

Job Prospects

Competition for law office management positions is high, as the number of people seeking positions within the field outnumbers the available jobs. The growth rate for all office manager jobs from 2012 through 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), would be around 12%, which is about average among all careers. The trend among larger firms and legal departments to downsize and capitalize on the development of new technology can result in streamlined firms that require fewer managers. However, it is important to note that qualified law office managers often oversee the implementation of these changes.

Experience and education are vitally important to those seeking careers within the legal office management field. A review of current job openings reveals that almost all firms hiring in March 2011 were seeking candidates with five or more years of experience as law office or administrative managers and some level of postsecondary education.

Salaries

Wages for law office managers vary greatly, depending on the size of the firm, the location and a person's experience. The median annual salary for office managers in May 2014, according to the BLS, was $83,790. However, a look at current job postings shows that legal office managers can often earn significantly more. In March 2012, two New York firms were hiring legal office managers, with one offering a salary up to $85,000 and the other offering a base pay rate of $100,000 to $125,000 a year.

What Are the Requirements?

There are no specific educational requirements for those seeking careers in law office management. However, an associate's or bachelor's degree in a related field, such as business or office administration, can greatly increase a candidate's chances in seeking a job. Some firms seek applicants with professional certifications, such as a Certified Legal Manager designation.

The most important requirement is experience. Prospective legal office managers just entering the field can often expect to work in lesser administrative positions for several years before having an adequate shot at a management position. Many potential employers require a minimum of five years of experience. Among the skills you will need in the field are:

  • Leadership and team building skills
  • An attention to detail
  • Ability to meet deadlines
  • People skills
  • Computer knowledge

Job Postings from Real Employers

Although a specific degree is not a requirement in the law office management field, most employers seek applicants with some postsecondary education, as well as a certain amount of experience. Certification and memberships in professional organizations can also be helpful. To give you an idea of the varied skills and experience employers were looking for, the following are a few law office manager job listings from nationally known Internet job websites from March 2012:

  • A law office in Columbus, Ohio, sought an office manager for an 11-lawyer, multi-city firm to oversee accounting and report functions, human relations, staff training, IT coordination and facilities and equipment management. Successful candidates should have a bachelor's degree in accounting, five years of law office management experience, and knowledge of ProLaw document management.
  • A sole practitioner employment law firm was looking for an experienced legal secretary to manage the firm. Applicants must have strong experience in litigation support, as well as excellent phone and client management skills.
  • A successful Washington, D.C., trial firm wanted an office administrator with knowledge of law firm management to run office functions, establish priorities and develop successful relationships between the lawyers and support staff. Membership in the Association of Legal Administrators and certification as a Certified Legal Manager were considered a plus for potential candidates.
  • A New York City-based residential real estate development firm sought a legal office manager to oversee three attorneys and support staff. Responsibilities included billing, tracking, commencing legal proceedings and coordinating case assignments and calendars.

How to Stand Out

The best way to get noticed in the field of law office management is to have experience. Though the best way to obtain that experience is through time spent working as an office manager, many firms seek candidates with equivalent educational experience that allow prospective candidate to move directly into office management. Applicants can stand out by earning associate's or bachelor's degrees in areas such as accounting, office administration, business, paralegal or legal administrative assisting.

Those already working in the field can strengthen their marketability by pursuing online courses in paralegal studies, accounting or business, or by obtaining certification in a specialty such as law office management. Knowledge of accounting and legal software programs can also be helpful. A very good way for you to increase your chances for success as a law office manager is to join a professional association, such as the Association of Legal Administrators. In addition to providing lists of job openings, associations offer educational opportunities, networking and a chance to establish relationships with other successful law office managers within the field.

Get Specialized

Since the nature of required duties will vary depending on the type of firm or legal department, specializing in certain areas within the field is a good way to stand out. For example, some firms expect their office managers to handle paralegal duties as an integral part of their job. Applicants with paralegal experience or paralegal certification will have a higher chance of getting hired at one of these firms. Other firms want managers to handle more traditional office duties, such as bookkeeping, accounting and personnel management. Experience or a degree within these areas can increase your chances for success.

Other Career Paths

Administrative Services Manager

A good way to broaden your career opportunities is to pursue a career as an administrative services manager. The duties and training are almost identical, but you won't be limiting yourself to working in a law office or legal department. Administrative services managers handle a variety of duties aimed at allowing organizations and businesses to run smoothly. A degree is not a requirement to work in this field but, again, experience and/or education are helpful.

Job prospects in this career are better because of your ability to choose from a wide variety of fields. However, competition is keen for higher-level, better paying jobs. Employment is expected to grow by 12% from 2008 through 2018, which is a little better than the average for all other occupations. Salaries can be much better, as the median annual wages for an administrative services manager in May 2010 were $84,390, according to the BLS.

Paralegal

If you want to work within the legal field without the expense and commitment of attending law school, becoming a paralegal can be a good option. Paralegals - also commonly called legal assistants -- aid lawyers with a wide variety of duties, ranging from administrative tasks such as filing and organizing calendars to full-on legal work drafting pleadings and working with clients. Many firms give their paralegals more legal responsibility as they gain experience, but paralegals are forbidden to offer legal advice to clients. Though the majority of paralegals work in law firms, jobs are also available in government and corporate legal departments.

More education may be required than that of a law office manager, as most paralegals have either an associate's degree in paralegal studies or a bachelor's degree in another area and a paralegal certificate. The job outlook is very strong for paralegals. According to the BLS, employment growth for the decade from 2008 to 2018 is 28%, which is much faster than average. Salaries for paralegals are wide ranging, from around $30,000 a year to more than $73,000, with an average salary in 2010 of $49,640.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Ashford University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.A. - Education
      • MA-Psychology
      • MS-Criminal Justice
      • MBA - Media Management
      • MBA
      • MA/Education - School Leadership in the 21st Century
    Bachelor's
      • B.A. - Journalism and Mass Communication
      • B.A. - Psychology
      • B.A. - Business Admin
      • B.A. - Communication Studies
      • B.A. - Liberal Arts
      • BA/Health and Wellness
    Associate's
      • Associate of Arts - Early Childhood Education
  • Online Programs Available
    2. University of Delaware

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Public Administration
      • Master of Business Administration
      • Master of Business Administration - Finance
      • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Concentration
      • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Major
      • Master of Business Administration - International Business
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Southern New Hampshire University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Higher Education Administration
      • MS in Criminal Justice
      • MBA in Criminal Justice
      • MEd in Curriculum and Instruction - Dyslexia Studies & LBLD
      • MS in Psychology
      • MA in Communication
    Bachelor's
      • BA in Psychology
      • BA Psychology w/conc in Applied Psychology
      • BA Communications w/conc in New Media
      • BS Computer Science
      • BA in Communication
      • BA in Psychology - Forensic Psychology
    Associate's
      • AA in Liberal Arts
      • AS in Marketing
      • AS in Accounting
      • AS in Business Administration
      • AA in Digital Photography
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Master of Science - DNP Executive Leader
      • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
      • Master of Science - DNP Path (Doctor of Nursing Practice)
    Master's
      • MSCJ: Law
      • Master: Legal Studies
      • MS in Psychology
      • Master : Business Admin
      • Master: Psychology/General Psychology
      • MSPY - Industrial/Organizational Psychology Specialization
    Bachelor's
      • Undergraduate in Legal Studies
      • Bachelor: Liberal Studies
      • Bachelor of Business Admin
      • BSBA - Investment
      • BS in Liberal Studies Leadership
      • Bachelor: Nutrition Science
    Associate's
      • AASBA in Business
      • AAS in Legal Support and Services
      • Associate: Business Admin.
      • Associate: Business Admin. - Office Mgmt
      • Associate: Criminal Justice
      • Associate: Accounting
    Certificate
      • Psychology
      • Medical Assisting
      • Certificate in Human Services
      • Medical Office Administration
      • Human Services Certificates in Child and Family Services
      • Postbaccalaureate Certificate - Pathway to Paralegal
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
      • PhD in Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
      • Doctor of Business Admin - General Business
      • PhD-TIM - Computer Science
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Management
      • Ed.D. - Sports Management
    Master's
      • M.A. in Psychology - General Psychology
      • MBA - Applied Computer Science
      • Master of Business Admin - General Business
      • MEd - General Education
      • Master of Business Admin - Accelerated General MBA
      • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership - Criminal Justice
    Certificate
      • Education Specialist - Organizational Leadership
      • Education Specialist - Special Education
      • Education Specialist - International Education
      • Education Specialist - Early Childhood Education
      • Education Specialist - Curriculum and Teaching
      • Education Specialist - Instructional Leadership
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Teaching and Learning
      • Master of Project Management
      • Master of Finance
      • Master of Professional Accounting
      • Master - Information Technology Management
      • Graduate Specialization - Healthcare Administration
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Communication
      • BS - Human Services
      • BS - Accounting
      • BS - Project Management
      • BS - Marketing
      • Undergraduate Specialization - Criminal Forensics
    Certificate
      • Graduate Certificate - Human Resource Management
      • Undergraduate Certificate - Project Management
      • Graduate Specialization - Accounting
      • Graduate Certificate - Cyber Security
  • Campus and Online Programs
    7. Full Sail University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science - Film Production
      • M.S. - Entertainment Business
      • M.S. - New Media Journalism
      • Master of Fine Arts - Creative Writing
      • M.S. - Public Relations
      • M.S. - Internet Marketing
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science - Software Development
      • BS - Cloud Technologies (Campus)
      • BS - Creative Writing for Entertainment (Campus)
      • BS - Film (Campus)
      • BS - Media Communications (Campus)
      • BS - Mobile Development (Campus)
    Certificate
      • Cert - English As A Second Language (Campus)
      • Cert - Instructional Design and Technology
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Trident University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Business Administration (Ph.D. BA)
      • Health Sciences (Ph.D. HS)
      • Educational Leadership (Ed. D.)
      • Educational Leadership (Ph. D. EL)
    Master's
      • Master's - Education
      • Master's - Business Administration
      • Master's - Health Sciences
      • Master's - Human Resources Management
      • Master's - Information Technology Management
      • Master's - Emergency and Disaster Management
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor's - Computer Sciences
      • Bachelor's - Business Administration
      • Bachelor's - Health Sciences
      • Bachelor's - Human Resources Management
      • Bachelor's - Homeland Security
      • Bachelor's - Information Technology Management
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Nursing Practice
      • Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership
      • Doctor of Ministry
    Master's
      • Master of Public Administration - Criminal Justice
      • Master of Business Administration - Health Care Administration
      • M.A. Organizational Leadership
      • Master of Education - School Administration
      • Master of Education - Special Education
    Bachelor's
      • B.S. Criminal Justice
      • BS Human Communications
      • B.S. General Studies - Communication
      • B.S. General Studies - Criminal Justice
      • B.S. General Studies - Liberal Arts
    Associate's
      • A.S. Business
      • A.S. Criminal Justice
      • A.S. General Studies - Business
      • A.S. General Studies - Communications
      • A.S. General Studies - Criminal Justice
      • A.S. General Studies - Liberal Arts
    Certificate
      • Graduate Biology Certificate
      • Undergraduate Certificate - Communications
      • Undergraduate Certificate - Criminal Justice
      • Post-Master's Certificate - Primary Care
      • Undergraduate Certificate - General Studies
      • Undergraduate Certificate - Human Services
  • Online Programs Available
    10. University of the Rockies

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Philosophy in Education - Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment
      • Doctor of Philosophy in Education
      • Doctor of Psychology - Criminology and Justice Studies
      • Doctor of Philosophy in Human Services
      • Psy.D. in Non-Profit Management
      • Psy.D. in Organizational Leadership
    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Education
      • Master of Arts in Psychology - General Psychology
      • Master of Arts in Psychology - Criminology and Justice Studies
      • M.A. in Psychology - Organizational Leadership
      • M.A. in Psychology - Business Psychology
      • M.A. in Psychology - Career Management & Counseling

Featured Schools

Ashford University

  • M.A. - Education
  • B.A. - Journalism and Mass Communication
  • Associate of Arts - Early Childhood Education

What is your highest level of education?

University of Delaware

  • Master of Public Administration
  • Master of Business Administration
  • Master of Business Administration - Finance

What is your highest level of education completed?

Southern New Hampshire University

  • MS in Higher Education Administration
  • BA in Psychology
  • AA in Liberal Arts

What is your highest level of education?

Kaplan University

  • Master of Science - DNP Executive Leader
  • MSCJ: Law
  • Undergraduate in Legal Studies
  • AASBA in Business
  • Psychology

Which subject are you interested in?

Northcentral University

  • Doctor of Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
  • M.A. in Psychology - General Psychology
  • Education Specialist - Organizational Leadership

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado State University Global

  • MS - Teaching and Learning
  • BS - Communication
  • Graduate Certificate - Human Resource Management

What is your highest level of education?

Full Sail University

  • Master of Science - Film Production
  • Bachelor of Science - Software Development
  • Cert - English As A Second Language (Campus)

What is your highest level of education?

Trident University

  • Business Administration (Ph.D. BA)
  • Master's - Education
  • Bachelor's - Computer Sciences

What is your highest level of education completed?