Legal Assistant Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

Last updated: August 22, 2022

A Legal Assistant, or Paralegal, is responsible for helping Lawyers and other legal professionals prepare for trials or court cases. Their duties include answering phone calls and greeting clients, contributing to fact-checking and compiling case evidence and communicating with court employees to confirm court dates.

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Legal Assistant duties and responsibilities

The specific duties of a Legal Assistant will often depend on the needs of the law firm or the Lawyer they assist. However, Legal Assistants will often have the following responsibilities:

  • Communicate with clients, gathering necessary documents and information to begin building a case.
  • Conduct all initial research and provide information to the Lawyer.
  • Manage all administrative responsibilities in the legal office.
  • Draft the first copy of legal documents.
  • Organize all legal documents in a confidential way.
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What does a Legal Assistant do?

Legal Assistants typically work for law firms to provide administrative support to Lawyers and their clients. They oversee various clerical tasks, including making copies, sending emails, maintaining appointment schedules, processing client payments and organizing filing systems. Their job is to contact witnesses, record interviews with witnesses, review police reports and composing legal documents like contractual agreements or affidavits. They may also be responsible for assisting Lawyers in the courtroom by organizing documents and rehearse their statements before the start of a trial.

Legal Assistant skills and qualifications

Legal Assistants will typically have certain prerequisite qualifications and skills, which include:

  • Computer skills 
  • Research skills 
  • Ability to maintain confidentiality
  • Strong written and verbal communication skills
  • Organizational skills

Legal Assistant salary expectations

Legal Assistants make an average of $16.17 per hour. Pay rate may vary depending on the education, experience level and geographical location of the Legal Assistant. The specific duties of the Legal Assistant and the type of legal work they do may also determine the pay rate. For example, an entry-level Legal Assistant who works for a smaller law firm that specializes in auto accidents can usually expect to earn less than an experienced Legal Assistant who works for a law firm with high-profile legal cases.

Legal Assistant education and training requirements

A minimum of an associate degree in paralegal studies is often required to work as a Legal Assistant. Some Legal Assistants may have a bachelor’s degree and some may be working toward entrance to law school. Many aspiring Lawyers or Paralegals will pursue employment as a Legal Assistant in preparation for a career as a Lawyer or Paralegal. Some hiring managers may prefer to hire a candidate without prior experience and then train them on the individual needs of the law firm while encouraging them to become certified as a Legal Assistant.

Legal Assistant experience requirements

Whether or not previous legal experience is required to work as a Legal Assistant will depend on the individual needs of the law firm and its Lawyers. Larger law firms with many clients may prefer to hire a Legal Assistant who has previous experience in this role. Others may prefer to hire a Legal Assistant with previous experience in the same legal industry in which they work. Some Legal Assistants may transfer certain skills developed from one legal field to a new one.

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Frequently asked questions about Legal Assistants

 

What is the difference between a Legal Assistant and a Legal Secretary?

The difference between a Legal Assistant and a Legal Secretary is seniority and scope of responsibilities. For example, Legal Assistants usually hold an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree in an area like paralegal studies or pre-law. Due to their legal education, Legal Assistants complete various tasks like interviewing witnesses, writing legal documents and supporting Lawyers in the courtroom in addition to more clerical or administrative tasks. 

In contrast, Legal Secretaries need at least a high school diploma or GED and should be at least 18 or 21 years old depending on state guidelines for the position. They solely perform clerical tasks like answering phone calls, greeting office visitors, scheduling appointments and making photocopies. In smaller law firms, Legal Assistants may perform the job duties of a Legal Secretary.

 

What are the daily duties of a Legal Assistant?

On a typical day, a Legal Assistant checks their email and voicemail to respond to messages from witnesses, court employees or clients. They coordinate with Lawyers to make updates to their appointment schedule and assist Lawyers in conducting witness interviews. Legal Assistants also run errands on behalf of Lawyers to obtain court records, police reports and other documentation to aid in their case. They may spend the day in court, helping Lawyers set-up slideshow presentations and organizing documents to review throughout the hearing or trial.

 

What qualities make a good Legal Assistant?

A good Legal Assistant enjoys working as a part of a team. This quality ensures that they fulfill their supportive role to Lawyers and the rest of the legal team. They have excellent written and verbal communication that enables them to compose legal documents and communicate between Lawyers and their clients. They also have great interpersonal communication which allows them to speak with a variety of different people including lawyers, clients, witnesses, judges or court employees. 

Further, a good Legal Assistant has an investigative mindset that motivates them to analyze police reports, bank records and other documents to help build a case against the defendant.

 

Who does a Legal Assistant report to?

A Legal Assistant usually reports directly to one or more Lawyers or Attorneys at their law firm. Legal Assistants can also report to Judges and other judicial personnel who work at courthouses.

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