In the article below, we will explore the job of a legal assistant.
We will cover the skills, duties, qualifications, and training, as well as the working hours and salary of a legal assistant.
A legal assistant can be employed in nearly any business, government institution, or industry that has a lawyer on staff.
Legal assistants are educated and trained professionals working with lawyers and performing essential legal tasks that a lawyer usually doesn’t have time for.
They assist witnesses, vendors, clients, and outside attorneys with the questions they have, and schedule meetings.
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However, legal assistants aren’t qualified to give legal advice or sign any legal documents.
What Does a Legal Assistant Do
Legal assistants have a lot of tasks they have to perform every day.
Regardless of the project they had on the previous day, they would have to continue it.
But first, they need to have a morning meeting with the attorney to coordinate their workday.
Legal assistants may have to work with more than one attorney and other support staff.
Legal assistants have to cooperate with the office staff because the support of the attorney’s work requires cooperation between the entire legal department.
When there is an active case, legal assistants should gather all the information the attorney requires.
They should research and analyze that information, which is an important part of legal assistant work.
Legal assistants have to constantly learn about the changes in the legal area that attorneys specialize in.
The responsibilities of a legal assistant may vary depending on the area of law in which the lawyer practices as well as the size of the legal department.
Legal assistants complete various tasks for the lawyer’s support.
It may include organizing and maintaining filing systems, doing legal research, drafting legal documents, etc.
The scope of work of a legal assistant includes:
- Research specific laws, legal articles, and regulations.
- Draft legal documents and correspondence, such as white papers, contracts, and MOUs.
- File various briefs, legal documents, exhibits, and appeals with the court.
- Gather and coordinate evidence and other legal documents for the lead attorney’s review when preparing for the case.
- Collect formal documents required for a case as evidence.
- Assist attorneys in court by taking notes, organizing exhibits, and being a communication mean with other support staff.
- Write reports for lawyers to prepare for executive meetings or trials.
Legal assistants have to ensure they don’t miss anything that might be helpful for the lawyer to win a case.
Excellent verbal and written communication skills:
Legal assistants need to communicate with the lawyer and the other staff effectively.
Practical knowledge of the law and the court system:
Without this type of knowledge, legal assistants wouldn’t be able to assist lawyers.
Excellent computer skills and ability to write briefly:
In most cases, time is significant.
The ability to write fast and to the point is one of the requirements for the legal assistant job.
Able to conduct legal research:
This is one of the most important aspects of legal assistant responsibilities.
The research will take a vast part of the job of a legal assistant.
Legal and ethical responsibility:
You can encounter sensitive cases and issues, so the sense of responsibility is essential.
Office management skills:
Timekeeping, word processing, billing, file organization, case management, and accounting systems skills are essential.
You should know how to take legal action when it’s required.
Public speaking skills:
Those who can’t speak on the public aren’t a good fit for a legal assistant job.
How to Become a Legal Assistant
Becoming a legal assistant goes in many ways.
You can start as a legal secretary and gain enough experience in the company, so they train you on the job.
Also, you can take college courses and obtain an associate’s degree or a legal assistant certificate.
Alternatively, you can work as an intern at a law firm to gain practical experience.
Internships are also possible to obtain in the legal aid community centers of a government-sponsored summer program.
Training and Qualifications
If you want to succeed in the field of law, you should take the NALA Exam Preparation Course (NALA).
With the NALA course, you can earn a professional certification from the National Association of Legal Assistants.
It is helpful in the course of preparation to become a paralegal and taking the NALA Certified Paralegal Examination.
Even with formal education, most employers seek legal assistants with experience.
Here are a few ways you can gain relevant experience:
- Networking with multiple professionals, including national legal assistant organizations.
- Connect with people through social media platforms such as LinkedIn.
- Familiarize yourself with local businesses and firms with a legal department and edit your resume to fit their requirements, and contact them.
- Take an internship program in the local firms, non-profit organizations, government agencies, etc.
- Visit temporary agency listings and online career boards.
The typical schedule of a legal assistant includes a 40-hour workweek.
However, it’s not uncommon for the legal assistants to work 10 or more hours a day.
They may also have to work on weekends and holidays.
Since legal assistants report to attorneys, they can’t schedule their own hours.
With an open case, the workweek can be extended to 60 or 80 hours a week, sometimes for a few weeks.
The average salary of an entry-level legal assistant with the experience under 5 years is $35,704.
With five to ten years of experience, legal assistants can make around $40,000 per year.
With over 10 years of experience, the salary can be raised up to $51,000.
Legal assistants can also earn bonuses, special remuneration, and profit-sharing amounting to $4,000 or $5,000.
What’s interesting, the salary for legal assistants on the West Coast is higher than on the East Coast.
The job outlook for legal assistants is also great.
This career keeps growing faster than many other occupations.
Legal assistants are invaluable in a law firm, government or corporate environment.
The legal support staff positions in corporations and governments are increased, which is more economical.
This increases the demand for legal support staff in multiple industries.
At the same time, the tasks of a legal assistant and a paralegal may overlap.
Both jobs are a stepping stone in a career path.
Legal assistants can become paralegals while paralegals aim at becoming lawyers.
Both careers require more extensive training and higher education.
The career of a legal assistant can aid in expanding future opportunities and can be a great job itself.
Undoubtedly, being a legal assistant, you can get noticed.
This is a rewarding job and a long-term opportunity for many professionals.
You can advance in the law field with more education and training by becoming a paralegal and, eventually, a lawyer.