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Legal Assistant vs. Administrative Assistant: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

A legal assistant or administrative assistant provides support to lawyers and other legal professionals. If you’re interested in working in the legal field but don’t want to be a lawyer, these positions may be a good fit for you. Both legal assistants and administrative assistants perform many of the same tasks, but there are some key differences between the two roles. In this article, we compare and contrast legal assistants and administrative assistants, and we provide information on job outlook and salary expectations.

What is a Legal Assistant?

Legal Assistants provide support to lawyers by researching cases, drafting documents and maintaining records. They often work in law firms, government agencies or corporate legal departments. Legal Assistants conduct research on relevant laws, regulations and court decisions to help lawyers prepare for hearings, trials and corporate meetings. They also interview witnesses, draft pleadings and organize exhibits. Legal Assistants may also be responsible for managing the lawyer’s calendar, scheduling appointments and keeping track of deadlines.

What is an Administrative Assistant?

Administrative Assistants provide clerical and administrative support to an office. They maintain files, prepare documents, schedule appointments and support other office staff. They may also answer phones, take messages and direct visitors. Administrative Assistants typically work in a variety of office settings, including corporate offices, government agencies and non-profit organizations. They may also work in virtual office settings, providing administrative support to employees who work remotely.

Legal Assistant vs. Administrative Assistant

Here are the main differences between a legal assistant and an administrative assistant.

Job Duties

Administrative assistants and legal assistants may share some job duties, but they also have unique responsibilities within a law firm, corporate environment or government agency. Legal assistants assist lawyers by researching and preparing documents. They conduct research using the Internet, databases and other resources to locate information that assists the lawyer in their case.

Administrative assistants typically have multiple responsibilities that support the employees in an office. These professionals may schedule meetings, type memos, organize files and provide general administrative support. However, if an administrative assistant works in a law firm, they may perform more specialized tasks to support the work of the lawyers.

Job Requirements

Legal assistants and administrative assistants typically need at least a high school diploma to enter the workforce. However, many employers prefer candidates who have completed some postsecondary education, such as an associate degree or certificate program in legal assisting or administrative assisting. These programs often last one to two years and can be found at community colleges and technical schools. Many legal assistants and administrative assistants also pursue professional certification to improve their job prospects. The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) offers the Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) credential, while the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) offers the Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) credential.

Work Environment

Legal assistants and administrative assistants work in different environments. Legal assistants typically work in law firms, where they may sit at a desk or table with other legal assistants to discuss cases. They also travel to meet with clients and attend court hearings. Administrative assistants usually work in an office environment for companies of all sizes. They may have more interaction with coworkers than legal assistants do because their job duties involve communicating with employees about company policies and procedures.


Both legal assistants and administrative assistants use a variety of skills in their jobs. These can include customer service, communication, organization, time management and computer skills. However, there are some key differences in the skills that each position requires.

Legal assistants need to have strong research skills as they often need to look up information about cases or laws. They also need to be able to understand complex legal concepts and documents. Administrative assistants typically do not need to have this same level of legal knowledge.

Another key difference is that administrative assistants may need to have more accounting skills than legal assistants. This is because they may be responsible for managing budgets, invoicing and other financial tasks. Legal assistants may need to have some basic accounting skills, but they typically are not responsible for the same financial duties as administrative assistants.


Legal assistants earn an average salary of $53,030 per year, while administrative assistants earn an average salary of $45,618 per year. Both of these salaries may vary depending on the size of the company, the location of the job and the level of experience the employee has prior to taking the job.


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