Legal Assistant Job Description
Legal assistants, also referred to as paralegals, help minimize a lawyer’s work load. They do so by performing a wide range of clerical and administrative tasks, including everything from screening calls and performing legal research to document creation and preparation. These tasks are necessary for effective client representation and efficient operation of the law office. Legal assistants are employed at individual law firms, at two-person firms, or at large practices with several attorneys. They may also work within legal departments of corporations or nonprofit organizations.
The work environment for paralegals is usually fast-paced and timeline driven. Work hours are normally during regular business hours in the office, but legal assistants may also be required to do field work and travel.
Legal Assistant Duties and Responsibilities
Responsibilities vary somewhat for specialized legal assistants, but there are several tasks that are consistent across the field. We’ve researched and listed a few of these common tasks below:
Legal assistants schedule and facilitate interviews with clients, witnesses, and other pertinent individuals to help determine facts and gather evidence to help lawyers build their case.
They assist legal counsel with case preparation by researching legal precedent, briefs, laws, and statutes, and investigating facts.
Documents such as subpoenas, deeds, and complaints and answers are typed by the legal assistant and prepared for mailing to the court or another recipient.
Lawyers spend of good part of their workday meeting with clients and in the court room. To help maximize their time, legal assistants screen incoming calls and determine whether they can assist the caller before transferring them to the lawyer or their voicemail.
Legal assistants keep office files (including pleadings and correspondence) current and organized so that lawyers or other office staff can easily access them.
Legal Assistant Skills and Qualifications
Employers seek legal assistants who are detail oriented and possess great people skills. They also prefer candidates with the following abilities:
- Analytical thinking – legal assistants analyze data and records, such as legal codes and articles, briefs, and statutes, to help build cases
- Organization skills – because they handle large amounts of paperwork and files and interact with multiple clients simultaneously, legal assistants must be organized
- Time management – legal assistants have multiple priorities, many of which are deadline driven, so they must effectively manage their time
- Typing – it’s essential for legal assistants to have speedy and accurate typing skills, because they’re responsible for drafting numerous documents and correspondence
- Knowledge of legal terminology – understanding legalese is important for legal assistants, as it helps them conduct research and analysis and write documentation
Legal Assistant Education and Training
A high school diploma is the minimum education requirement to enter this field, but an associate’s degree along with two years of experience are preferred by most employers.
Legal Assistant Salary and Outlook
Legal assistants’ annual salary, which may include bonuses, commissions, and profit sharing, ranges from $25,000 to $59,000.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a faster-than-average growth rate for legal assistants, with the field expected to grow 15 percent through 2026. Candidates with a postsecondary degree as well as strong computer and database management skills will have the best prospects for employment.
If you’re interested in becoming a legal assistant, it’ll pay to learn more about the job. You can start with the additional resources we’ve compiled below:
Career as a Paralegal: Legal Assistant – with this book, the Institute for Career Research provides a valuable tool for those interested in the legal assistant field. The text explores how to get into the industry, which fields legal assistants can specialize in, what the job’s day-to-day duties look like, and common salary and benefits packages
Legal Research and Writing for Paralegals – author Deborah E. Bouchoux offers paralegal students and those new to the legal assistant field an opportunity to brush up on or solidify their legal research and writing skills. She emphasizes the critical link between research and writing by incorporating writing strategies into each of the chapters on research
National Association of Legal Assistants – NALA uses continuing education and professional development to help paralegals build successful careers. Publications, courses, webinars, networking opportunities, professional certification programs, and job survey reports are made available to all members
National Federation of Paralegal Associations – NFPA was the first national association for paralegals. Its primary purpose is to advance the paralegal profession by monitoring legislation, case law, and proposed changes that will influence this profession
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