The convenor of Capilano University’s legal administrative assistant program, Lindy Tucker, is well aware of one of the biggest challenges facing some B.C. law firms. They simply can’t find enough trained legal administrative assistants—known as LAAs—to fill all the job openings.
In a phone interview with the Straight, Tucker said she recently attended a meeting hosted by members of the B.C. Legal Management Association’s human-resources subsection, where this was the dominant topic of conversation.
“We can’t graduate enough students to fill the demand,” Tucker said. “They’re coming out of their two-week practicum and they’re getting job offers right away.”
To become an LAA, students have traditionally enrolled in a full-time nine-month certificate program at Capilano University’s North Vancouver campus. There, they learn about various legal documents, aspects of the law, and how to do administrative work such as filing documents in court, scheduling trial dates, and arranging meetings.
But this fall, Capilano University is launching an online part-time certificate program with the same courses as those offered in the face-to-face program. The online program can be taken over six terms, enabling people already in the workforce or stay-at-home parents to study when it’s convenient for their schedules.
“They get an introduction-to-law course to give an overview of the Canadian legal system,” Tucker said.
There are also courses on basic conveyance and mortgage procedures, business writing geared to a law firm, corporate procedures, wills and probates, securities procedures, organizational behaviour, and word processing, among other subjects.
In addition, students learn about basic litigation procedures and documents commonly used in the legal arena, including affidavits and notices of civil claim.
“We also do a virtual legal-office course,” Tucker explained, “which is getting you to work hands-on with a mock legal file, so you’re doing real-life tasks that you would get in an office.”
All the instructors are either working or have worked in the legal field, so they bring a wealth of experience into the program.
Online courses will have the same instructors as the on-campus program; guest speakers will be broadcast live online. For students who can’t be available at those times, the lectures will be recorded.
The online program is well suited to people living in other parts of B.C., as well as to those in entry-level positions at law firms who want to upgrade their skills.
Starting salaries for LAAs in Vancouver begin at a minimum of $35,000 per year, according to Tucker. She said that because of the current labour shortage, some students come out of the Capilano program and receive offers of up to $40,000 per year.
“It’s a rigorous program, but they’re going to be rewarded in the end with job offers and with really good starting salaries for a certificate program,” Tucker said. “The other great thing is it can be used as a stepping stone to enter the paralegal-certificate program and work their way into the paralegal profession, if that’s what they want to do.”
Both the full-time and part-time LAA programs include a two-week practicum at a private law firm or government agency.
LAAs learn transferable skills, which can open other doors, like working for a licensed immigration consultant or in other administrative positions.
There is no deadline for applying for this fall’s online LAA program.
“Our admission requirements are high-school graduation,” Tucker said. “There’s also mature-student status that you can apply for if you didn’t graduate from high school and now you have more life experience.”More