What does a legal assistant or paralegal do? As a legal assistant or paralegal you’ll assist the lawyers when they are readying a case for meetings, hearings, and trials.

A paralegal’s 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 Paralegal

The skills conducive to being an effective legal assistant are the ability to research, write, and work under often extreme pressure.  Find a local paralegal program.

To become a paralegal, 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.
  • Receive your associate’s degree (or bachelor’s degree) in paralegal studies.
  • Gain that work experience through an internship or a job.
  • Get your certification from the National Association for Legal Assistants. It’s voluntary, but many employers like to see it on a resume.

Paralegal 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.

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