Associate Degree in Law: Program Overview
Lawyers must complete a 4-year baccalaureate degree as well as a 3-year law school program before they can qualify to gain licensure and practice law. Associate's degrees are not applicable to the profession. However, paralegals and legal assistants can complete 2-year degree programs, such as an Associate of Arts in Legal Studies. Read on to learn about these programs, including common courses, certification options and the employment outlook.
Associate's degree programs in legal studies are most commonly offered by community colleges and are designed to train individuals for entry-level careers as legal assistants and paralegals. Students enrolled in such a degree program learn how to conduct legal research and provide assistance to licensed attorneys. These programs include general education courses in addition to legal studies courses. Graduates may qualify for certification from professional paralegal organizations, which can help with career advancement.
Those students enrolled in a degree program in law must study the basic concepts of U.S. law, civil litigation and legal procedures. They are also required to learn how to prepare basic legal documents, write legal correspondence, organize legal assignments, demonstrate knowledge of legal ethics and use correct legal terminology.
A high school diploma is an absolute prerequisite to gaining admittance into an associate's degree program in legal studies. Applicants should also be strong writers and should have a keen interest in research and a strong attention to detail.
Associate's degree programs in legal studies include courses that provide an introduction to law and legal theory as well as courses that provide specific instruction and training in legal writing and procedures. Examples include:
- Introduction to the U.S. legal system
- Civil procedures
- Contract law
- Legal research and writing
- Legal interview techniques
- Law office management
- Administrative law
- Family law
- Bankruptcy law
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
Paralegals and legal assistants are most typically employed by legal services agencies or local, federal and state government agencies. About 256,000 professionals were working in the United States in 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Those in the profession made a median annual salary of $46,990 in May 2012.
Certification for paralegals and legal assistants may not be a requirement, but it is recommended in the workforce. Organizations such as the National Association of Legal Assistants and the American Alliance of Paralegals offer credentials in the field. Individuals seeking certification are required to complete an educational program and pass a certifying examination.
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