Legal Assistant and Paralegal

The professional titles of paralegal and legal assistant are sometimes interchangeable. However, depending on the specific law firm or legal environment, legal assistants and paralegals can have slightly different job responsibilities. Regardless, the jobs of paralegals and legal assistants are very similar, and they mainly work under the direct supervision of attorneys.


Under some circumstances, paralegals and legal assistants work either independently or under the supervision of a person or entity that is not an attorney or a law firm. In such cases, it is essential that they keep in mind that they are not able to provide legal advice to any clients, they cannot represent clients in court in place of an attorney, and in most circumstances they cannot put their signatures on documents that will be filed with local, state, federal, or any other court.


According to, there are specific duties that legal assistants and paralegals complete as part of their daily job routine. Of course, exact responsibilities vary depending on the area of law in which the legal assistant and paralegals work, as well as the working environment.


Some of the Typical Job Duties of Paralegals and Legal Assistants:


  • - Conduct Legal Research
  • - Draft Pleadings, Motions, Notices, and Other Legal Documents
  • - Interview Clients
  • - Interview Witnesses
  • - Manage Client Files
  • - File Documents with the Courts
  • - Maintain Contact with Clients
  • - Attend Legal Proceedings and Trials
  • - Record Billable Time


There are several training options for legal assistants and paralegals. The most common options are as follows: 1) on-the-job training, 2) an associate’s degree in paralegal studies, 3) a bachelor’s degree in any subject (combined with a paralegal certificate), or 4) a paralegal or legal assistant certificate (not combined with another degree).


The training and educational requirement for specific jobs will depend on the employer and exact position requirements. However, just as important as a degree in paralegal studies or a paralegal certificate, are the practical skills that the paralegals or legal assistants possess.


Essential functional skills for paralegals and legal assistants include a good understanding of legal terms and how to read and understand legal documents, knowledge of how local, state and federal court systems work, and comprehension of how different types of legal procedures work for both litigation and transactional law. Besides having a firm understanding of legal procedures, paralegals and legal assistants also need to have excellent communication skills, be highly organized, be good at drafting memos and other types of written correspondence, and have an overall interest in the law.


To get started in a career as a paralegal or legal assistant, enrolling in a training program is a good first step. There are different levels of programs available, including two-year associate’s degree programs, four-year bachelor’s degree programs, and certificate programs that can be completed in less than two years. Some employers require that a minimum of a certificate be obtained, and others require a degree.


The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the paralegal and legal assistant professions are expected to grow faster than average, but there will be consistent competition for the best jobs. Additionally, the BLS states that the best paralegal and legal assistant jobs will be given to those who have the highest-level professional experience and formal school-based training. The BLS lists the average yearly salary for legal assistants and paralegals as approximately $46,120, but the exact dollar amount varies depending on the legal assistant or paralegal’s experience, the size of the law firm or employer, and the geographic location of the job.

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