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Legal Assistant vs. Law Clerk: What Are the Differences?

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

A career in law can be both challenging and rewarding. If you’re interested in working in this field, you may be wondering what the difference is between a legal assistant and a law clerk. Both positions play an important role in the legal industry, but there are several key differences between them. In this article, we discuss the similarities and differences between legal assistants and law clerks, and we provide helpful tips for choosing the right career path.

What is a Legal Assistant?

Legal Assistants, also called Paralegals, work closely with lawyers to prepare for hearings, trials and corporate meetings. They conduct research, draft documents and organize files. Legal Assistants often work in law firms, government agencies or corporate legal departments. They typically have an associate’s degree or certificate in paralegal studies. Many Legal Assistants have a bachelor’s degree in another field, such as English or history. Legal Assistants must be detail-oriented and able to work independently. They must also have strong writing, research and communication skills.

What is a Law Clerk?

Law Clerks are entry-level positions for those interested in pursuing a career in law. Law Clerks typically work for a specific Judge in a courthouse or for a law firm, assisting attorneys and the Judge with legal research, writing memos and drafting opinions. They often attend court hearings and trials to take notes and assist with case preparation. Law Clerks also help maintain law libraries and may be responsible for managing the office’s docket, calendaring and filing system. Some Law Clerks may be responsible for managing the caseload of a solo practitioner or small law firm.

Legal Assistant vs. Law Clerk

Here are the main differences between a legal assistant and a law clerk.

Job Duties

Both law clerks and legal assistants perform a variety of tasks to assist lawyers with their work. However, the duties they carry out differ depending on their specific responsibilities. For example, a legal assistant may handle administrative tasks like preparing documents for filing, scheduling meetings and communicating with clients and other parties involved in a case. In contrast, a law clerk may work more closely with the lawyer by researching legal issues, drafting legal documents and conducting witness interviews.

The duties of a legal assistant are often more administrative in nature, while those of a law clerk tend to be more hands-on with respect to legal research and assistance. This is because a law clerk is typically an undergraduate student who is still studying to become a lawyer, whereas a legal assistant has already completed college and earned a degree in a non-legal discipline.

Job Requirements

Most legal assistants and law clerks have at least an associate degree, although some may have a bachelor’s degree. Many community colleges offer programs specifically in paralegal studies that can be completed in two years or less. These programs often include internships to give students practical experience working in a law office. Some four-year colleges also offer bachelor’s degrees in paralegal studies.

There are no formal education requirements to become a law clerk, but most of these professionals have at least a bachelor’s degree. Many law clerks have a law degree, but this is not always necessary. Some law firms may prefer to hire law clerks who have experience working in a law office or another professional setting.

Work Environment

Legal assistants and law clerks both work in an office environment. However, the type of office they work in depends on their employer. For example, a legal assistant may work for a private firm or corporation, while a law clerk may work for a government agency like a district attorney’s office or court system.

Law clerks also typically have more responsibilities than legal assistants because they’re working directly with attorneys to help them prepare cases. This means that they often spend more time in courtrooms observing trials and assisting judges and lawyers. Legal assistants rarely go into courtrooms unless they’re accompanying a lawyer to provide support during a trial.


There are several similarities in the skills used by legal assistants and law clerks. Both roles require excellent research skills, as they will often be tasked with finding information about cases or laws. They also need to have strong writing abilities to prepare reports or summaries of their findings. Organizational skills are important in both roles, as they need to be able to keep track of deadlines, paperwork and other important details.

However, there are some differences in the skills used by these two types of professionals. Legal assistants tend to use more administrative skills in their work, such as scheduling appointments and maintaining files. They may also provide support to lawyers by drafting documents or conducting interviews. Law clerks usually have a better understanding of the law than legal assistants and often perform tasks that require this knowledge, such as researching cases and writing legal opinions.


Legal assistants and law clerks both work in law offices, but they have different responsibilities. Legal assistants earn an average salary of $53,030 per year, while law clerks earn an average salary of $56,860 per year.


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