What does a legal assistant do? As a legal assistant, you’ll assist the lawyers and paralegals when they are readying a case for meetings, hearings, and trials.
Your job duties will include:
- Helping to maintain and organize the client case files
- Assisting in research and fact gathering for the case
- Drafting any necessary legal documents
- Using an e-filing system
- Getting evidence gathered and arranged to prepare for a case
- Writing a legal summary or brief
- Preparing the affidavits and any formal statements
- Handling exhibits, taking notes, and reviewing transcripts during trials
- Filing any of the exhibits, briefs, and appeals with both the court and opposing attorneys
- Arranging client, witness, and lawyer meetings
Your duties will depend on where you work and the size of the law firm. You may have to put in long hours, especially when a trial is coming up.
How to Become a Legal Assistant
The road to becoming a legal assistant is similar to that of a paralegal. The skills conducive to being an effective legal assistant are the ability to research, write, and work under often extreme pressure.
To become a legal assistant, you must:
- Graduate high school or get your GED.
- In some cases, a lawyer will hire someone right from high school and train them to be a legal assistant.
- Get accepted into a legal or paralegal studies program at the community college. Or, consider getting a bachelor’s degree in the same field.
- Receive your associate’s degree (or bachelor’s degree) in paralegal studies.
- Gain that work experience through an internship or a job.
- If you want to further your career and become an executive legal assistant or paralegal, go back to school for a more advanced degree.
- Get your certification from the National Association for Legal Assistants. It’s voluntary, but many employers like to see it on a resume.
Salary and Job Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics lumps paralegals and legal assistants together. The median annual salary for both is over $50K. The top ten percent earn over $80K. Your salary may look different depending on the size of the law firm you work in, how much experience you have, and what state you’re in. The top paying industry for legal assistants is the federal government, and the state governments generally pay the lowest salaries.
Through 2026, there will be a significant employment growth for legal assistants and paralegals. Combining the two, there will be well over 21,000 new positions available during this time frame. You’ll need to have strong computer and database management skills to compete in this market.