Legal Office Technology: Associate, Bachelor & Online Degree Info

About this article
What jobs can you get with an associate or bachelor degree in legal technology? Get the facts about requirements, online options, courses and training programs.
View available schools

Associate and Bachelor Degree in Legal Technology at a Glance

Undergraduate degree programs in legal technology are generally offered either as a program in office management/administration, as legal secretary degree programs or as paralegal degree programs, each with an emphasis in legal technology. Paralegals work under the supervision of an attorney, researching and drafting legal documents, and assisting with trial preparation. Office administrators manage the personnel, technology and business operations of the office or department. Legal secretaries perform traditional secretarial functions.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected job growth for legal secretaries and administrative assistants to grow by four percent from 2010-2020, which is slower than the average for all occupations. The BLS projected job growth for paralegals to be 18% - about average - in the same time frame. This was due in part to law offices and in-house legal departments hiring paralegals to do more of the work formerly performed by higher-paid attorneys.

Associate Bachelor
Who Is This Degree For? Individuals seeking an entry level position in a law office or who want to transfer their credits to a bachelor degree program Individuals who want employment in a law office or legal department in the public or private sector
Common Career Paths (with approximate annual median salary) - Legal secretary (42,000)*
- Legal records clerk ($32,000)**
- Paralegal or legal assistant ($47,000)*
- Office manager ($59,000)**
- Legal office administrator ($40,500)***
Time to Completion Two years full time Four years full time
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 13-18 classes in general education, legal and technology classes
- Minimum grade point average (GPA)
- Roughly 18-20 general education courses
- Roughly 20 legal and technology classes
- Minimum GPA
- Capstone or major project
Prerequisites - High school diploma or GED
- Minimum required ACT or SAT score (required by some schools)
- Assessment testing (usually administered by college - not always required)
- High school diploma or GED
- Minimum required ACT or SAT score
- Personal essay and/or letters of recommendation
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2011 salaries, **Salary.com, ***Payscale.com average annual salary.

Associate Degree in Legal Technology Programs

Associate degree programs that features legal technology are available to students who want to be legal office administrators, paralegals or legal secretaries. Some schools offer business technology programs with a legal emphasis for students whose career path is office administration. Other schools offer associate degree programs in paralegal studies with an emphasis in legal technology. Some legal secretarial programs also offer an emphasis in legal technology. Regardless of the career path you chart for yourself, the emphasis in legal technology prepares you for an entry level position with a law firm or legal department in the public or private sector. The technology emphasis can provide a valuable specialty that is in increasing demand by employers, who prefer job applicants who are proficient in the relevant office technology without needing on-the-job training.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Many colleges offering associate degree programs have an open admissions policy, making it easier to enroll in this program than some 4-year colleges. You can then transfer associate degree credits to a bachelor degree program
  • An associate degree program prepares you for an entry-level position in a law firm or in a corporate or government agency legal department
  • Many employers seek applicants with associate degrees rather than bachelor degrees for legal secretary or paralegal positions

Cons

  • You may be competing for the same job against high school graduates who have technology and office skills
  • Some employers prefer candidates who have prior experience working in a law firm*
  • This degree will not prepare you for a supervisory position, and you may have to acquire some work experience before you qualify for advancement

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Courses and Requirements

Associate degree programs for legal office administration, legal secretarial and paralegal studies differ somewhat, but all require that you take general education courses in English, math, science and humanities. Paralegal programs focus more heavily on various areas of law, legal research and writing skills, while administration programs focus on office management procedures, with some bookkeeping and file handling included. The legal secretarial program includes some of the office administration courses, but feature more secretarial skills. All programs feature similar classes covering general legal principles, law and the specialized technology used by law offices and legal departments. Courses generally include:

  • Legal terminology and procedures
  • Law courses
  • Business technology, computers, calculators, transcription and software
  • Information systems
  • Communication

Online Course Info

Certain paralegal degrees with an emphasis in legal technology are only available online. Other office administration or paralegal degree programs are available as fully or partially online programs. The online programs correspond to the programs offered on campus, with the same admission and graduation requirements.

Getting Ahead with this Degree

The demand for paralegals outstrips the demand for legal secretaries or legal administrators. Therefore, it may be beneficial for you to take the paralegal track with an emphasis in legal technology as a means of reducing job competition and obtaining an entry level position in a law office or legal department.

Degree Alternatives

If you are having a difficult time finding an associate degree program in legal technology, you may want to consider a dual major in paralegal studies, legal administration or legal studies combined with networks, information systems or office technology. This configuration would be available at more colleges. This dual major combination might also be more appealing to prospective employers. It could provide you with entry level-expertise in two distinct disciplines, making you more competitive against bachelor degree-holding candidates and candidates without a degree.

Bachelor Degree in Legal Technology

This is a degree program that may be difficult to find; however, you may find programs offered as information technology or computer technology degree programs with a legal emphasis. In some instances, you can tailor a baccalaureate legal studies program with your own technology emphasis as a minor or specialty to design a program that provides you with the technical proficiency you desire. Some of these programs offer the option to build upon a student's existing associate degree, adding the legal technology emphasis in a 2-year program. Regardless of the description, this program is designed to combine legal knowledge with a proficiency in technology. The combination of these two skills is a valuable asset to any law office or legal department.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • A bachelor degree with an emphasis in legal technology can give you a competitive edge over job applicants who do not have a legal technology proficiency
  • An employee - such as an office administrator or paralegal - who can perform certain duties that would normally require an information technology specialist could make a more valuable employee
  • This program could help prepare you for a senior position in a law office or legal department

Cons

  • This is a program of limited availability, and you may have to tailor a paralegal or office administration degree program to include extensive coursework in business and legal technology, or tailor a legal studies program to include coursework in office administration and business technology
  • Many employers do not require bachelor degrees, so you will likely be competing for the same job as lesser educated applicants who may have work experience
  • Legal technology is not a well-defined field yet, and employer reception to this specialty might be uncertain

Courses and Requirements

This program requires you to take general education courses in humanities, English, math and science. Then, depending on the track offered, your courses will diverge. Legal studies students focus heavily on law, legal principles and legal history. Paralegal students focus on legal research and writing, legal procedures and law. Legal administration programs feature administrative, personnel, bookkeeping and management skills. These tracks add courses on office technology, information systems and business software as a technology emphasis. Technology-centered programs feature computer and information systems, hardware and software, and add a legal emphasis. Curriculum requirements generally include:

  • Information processing
  • Communication
  • Technology
  • Law courses
  • Legal terminology
  • Legal research and writing

Online Course Info

Since this is a degree program of limited availability, the online versions are also difficult to find. However, you can find legal studies programs that you can custom-tailor with a technology emphasis available as partially or fully online offerings, or online technology programs that have a legal emphasis. Some schools offer the legal studies program only as an online offering. The coursework and requirements are comparable to classes offered on campus, with the added advantage that you can complete your course requirements from your home.

Getting Ahead with this Degree

The fact that a bachelor degree program in legal technology may be difficult to find can actually become an opportunity for you. A law office administrator or paralegal who possess skills in computer networking and security, or other information systems-related fields, can be a valuable asset to a law office that is trying to find the most bang for its employee buck. It may provide an opportunity for you to command a higher starting salary based on the argument that the office will not have to hire a separate information technology specialist for routine technology issues in the office. You may want to consider expanding your technology expertise beyond office systems and software into Web design, networking, information security, forensics or other law office technology requirements.

How Continuing Education Can Help You Stand Out

Technology is a rapidly changing field, and the legal professional who wants to remain competitive in this job market has to stay abreast of advancements in this field. Colleges offer continuing education courses in office and legal technology to help professionals maintain their proficiency in the technical skills demanded by employers. Bar associations also offer continuing legal education (CLE) classes in various aspects of legal technology, including electronic discovery, electronic record keeping. You do not need to be a lawyer to take these classes, and keeping your skills current with the requirements of courts and legal procedures will help you maintain your competitive edge.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.A. - Legal Studies
      • B.A. - Criminal Justice
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS - Criminal Justice
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Excelsior College

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS in Criminal Justice (Criminal Justice Administration)
      • BS in Criminal Justice (Without Concentration)
  • University, MS

    University of Mississippi

  • Chattanooga, TN

    The University of Tennessee

  • Online Programs Available
    6. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Corrections and Case Management
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Generalist
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Homeland Security and Crisis Management
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Forensic Science
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement

Featured Schools

Keiser University

  • B.A. - Legal Studies
  • B.A. - Criminal Justice

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado Technical University

  • BS - Criminal Justice

Are you a US citizen?

Excelsior College

  • BS in Criminal Justice (Criminal Justice Administration)
  • BS in Criminal Justice (Without Concentration)

What is your highest level of education completed?

American InterContinental University

  • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Corrections and Case Management
  • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Generalist
  • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Homeland Security and Crisis Management

Are you a US citizen?