Career Development

What Does a Legal Assistant Do?

Find out what a legal assistant does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a legal assistant.

Legal assistants are the behind-the-scenes workers of the legal profession. They provide support to lawyers by researching case law, drafting documents, and organizing information. Legal assistants may also be responsible for taking notes during meetings or court hearings, transcribing recordings, and other clerical duties.

Legal assistants typically work under the supervision of a lawyer, but they may also have some authority over other employees in their office. In many cases, they’re expected to exercise independent judgment when performing their job duties.

Legal Assistant Job Duties

Legal assistants have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Conducting legal research to support attorneys’ cases, including searching statutes, court cases, and other sources to locate relevant information
  • Drafting legal documents such as contracts, wills, and pleadings
  • Preparing applications for government benefits such as visas or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
  • Transcribing recordings of interviews or depositions for legal proceedings
  • Proofreading documents for grammar, punctuation, formatting, and spelling errors
  • Preparing legal documents such as briefs and motions using specialized word processing software
  • Preparing files for litigation by collecting pertinent information about parties involved in a case and summarizing the facts and previous rulings in related cases
  • Communicating with opposing counsel and court staff regarding scheduling issues and deadlines
  • Maintaining an attorney’s calendar by arranging appointments, keeping track of filing deadlines, and arranging for transcripts or other documents to be prepared

Legal Assistant Salary & Outlook

Legal assistant salaries are affected by years of experience, level of education, and type of law they specialize in.

  • Median Annual Salary: $47,000 ($22.6/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $86,500 ($41.59/hour)

The employment of legal assistants is expected to grow much faster than average over the next decade.

Law firms will continue to hire legal assistants to reduce costs and increase productivity. As law firms grow, they will need more legal assistants to handle a larger volume of work.

Related: In-Depth Legal Assistant Salary Guide

Legal Assistant Job Requirements

A legal assistant typically needs to have the following qualifications:

Education: Most legal assistants have at least a two-year associate’s degree in paralegal studies. Some employers prefer to hire candidates who have a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies or another closely related field.

Many paralegals choose to pursue a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies to increase their earning potential and qualify for more advanced positions.

Training & Experience: Legal assistants typically receive on-the-job training from their new employer. This training may include learning the firm’s policies and procedures, computer programs and other aspects of the job.

Certifications & Licenses: While you do not have to become licensed or certified to get a legal assistant job, some law firms prefer or even require that legal assistants have a certification.

Some states have certification programs approved by the American Bar Association. These programs certify legal assistants to work in the legal field and may make you a more appealing candidate during job searches.

Legal Assistant Skills

Legal assistants need the following skills in order to be successful:

Organization: Organization is another skill that can be helpful for legal assistants. This is because much of your work may involve keeping track of files, paperwork and other documents. You may also be responsible for scheduling meetings, making travel arrangements and other tasks that require you to be organized.

Communication: Legal assistants communicate with clients, other legal professionals and witnesses. They must be able to clearly convey information and ideas in writing and verbally. They must also be able to listen to and understand others.

Research: Legal assistants perform research to find information for their supervisors. They may research laws, statutes, case files and other documents to find the information their supervisors need. They may also research information about clients, witnesses and other individuals involved in a case.

Technology: Legal assistants should have basic computer skills and an understanding of various software programs. They should be able to use a computer to type, send and receive emails, create and edit documents and files, and use various software programs to complete tasks.

Attention to detail: Attention to detail is a necessary skill for legal assistants. You should be able to notice errors in documents, data and other files. You should also be able to notice inconsistencies in statements and other information. This skill can help you perform your job well and help you avoid errors.

Legal Assistant Work Environment

Legal assistants work in a variety of settings, including law firms, corporate legal departments, and government agencies. They typically work full time, and their work hours may include evenings and weekends. Many legal assistants also work part time or on a contract basis. In some cases, legal assistants may telecommute, working from home with the use of computers and other telecommunications technologies. The work environment for legal assistants can be fast paced and deadline driven. Legal assistants may be under a great deal of pressure to complete work accurately and efficiently. They may also be exposed to sensitive and confidential information.

Legal Assistant Trends

Here are three trends influencing how legal assistants work. Legal assistants will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Growth of Legal Tech

The legal industry is changing rapidly as more and more businesses turn to legal tech solutions to handle their legal needs. This trend is causing a shortage of qualified legal assistants, as many are moving towards legal tech jobs.

As the legal assistant profession evolves, professionals will need to learn how to use legal tech tools to help them do their job more efficiently. They will also need to be familiar with the latest legal tech products in order to recommend the best ones for their clients.

More Focus on Cybersecurity

Legal assistants are increasingly being asked to focus on cybersecurity issues. This is due to the increasing number of cyberattacks that are targeting law firms and their clients.

As legal assistants become more familiar with cybersecurity issues, they will be better equipped to protect their firm’s data from hackers. In addition, they will be able to identify potential vulnerabilities in their firm’s systems and suggest ways to fix them.

Increased Use of Technology

The legal field is becoming increasingly reliant on technology, which is having a major impact on the role of the legal assistant.

As technology becomes more important, legal assistants will need to be comfortable using it to support their work. This includes using software to manage case information, communicate with clients, and find legal resources. In addition, legal assistants will need to be able to use technology to research legal questions and find answers quickly.

How to Become a Legal Assistant

There are many different paths you can take as a legal assistant. You could specialize in a particular area of law, such as family law or corporate law. Or you could choose to work in a specific setting, such as a law firm, corporation, or government agency.

No matter which path you choose, it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest legal developments and trends. Read professional journals and attend continuing education courses offered by your state bar association. Network with other legal professionals, and volunteer at local legal aid clinics.

Related: How to Write a Legal Assistant Resume

Advancement Prospects

There are many ways to advance in the field of legal assisting. One of the best is to obtain an advanced degree, which will enable you to apply for positions that are not otherwise open to you. For example, a legal assistant with a bachelor’s degree may wish to obtain a master’s degree in law, which will allow him or her to work as a law professor or a law librarian. Alternatively, a legal assistant with a strong interest in business may wish to obtain an MBA, which will enable him or her to work in a law firm’s business department.

Another way to advance in the field of legal assisting is to obtain specialty certification, such as the Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) credential or the Board Certified Legal Assistant (BCLA) credential. These credentials demonstrate to potential employers that you have the skills and knowledge necessary to perform your job at a high level.

Finally, you can advance in your career by taking on more responsibility at your current job. For example, you may be promoted to a supervisory position, such as legal assistant manager or paralegal supervisor.

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