Legal Research Assistant: Job Duties, Career Outlook, and Education Prerequisites

Explore the career requirements for legal research assistants. Get the facts about training requirements, salary, and job outlook to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Juris Doctor degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Legal Research Assistant Do?

Legal research assistants help lawyers prepare for court cases by conducting relevant research. They also help lawyers prepare for hearings, trials, and corporate meetings by maintaining and organizing case files. They must be organized, capable of working on a team, and tech savvy. Specific duties may vary depending on the area of law in which they work, but may including gathering evidence, scheduling meetings, drafting legal documents, and writing reports. Legal assistants at smaller firms may have more responsibility. Additional career information is provided in the table below.

Training Required On-the-job training; associate's degree
Key Skills Organization, interpersonal, computer, research
Certification Certification is optional
Job Growth (2014-2024) 8% increase (for all paralegals and legal assistants)*
Median Salary (2015) $48,810 (for all paralegals and legal assistants)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are My Job Duties as a Legal Research Assistant?

As a legal research assistant, you use library and Internet resources to discover and confirm information relevant to court cases, hearings, depositions, and legal meetings. You may also perform related administrative duties, such as preparing official legal documents and maintaining records. Most of your time is spent working in a law office or library. You may work a standard 40-hour week if employed by corporate and government entities, but law firms may require you to work longer hours in order to meet their deadlines.

How Is My Career Outlook?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that job opportunities for paralegals and legal assistants would increase by 8% over the 2014-2024 decade (www.bls.gov). This favorable employment growth for your profession may be due to employers seeking to lower costs by delegating tasks once performed by lawyers to you. Despite this growth, you may still have to compete as many qualified individuals contend for available positions. Most legal research assistant positions are offered through private law firms, and the BLS reported that the median yearly salary for paralegals and legal assistants was $48,810 as of May 2015.

What Are My Education Prerequisites?

There are several ways for you to become a legal research assistant. Some law firms may be willing to hire you and provide on-the-job training. However, it may be necessary to acquire an associate's degree in paralegal studies at a community college. Your areas of study may include legal terminology, research techniques, ethics, trial procedures, communication, and legal writing. If you already hold a college degree in another discipline, you can complete a certificate program in paralegal studies in 1-2 semesters.

Regardless of the training route that you take, you may want to make sure that your program is accredited by the American Bar Association, since that can give you an edge with potential employers. Upon graduation from a paralegal studies program, you may be eligible to take the National Association of Legal Assistants paralegal certification exam. After successfully passing the exam, you can maintain your certified paralegal status by meeting 50 hours of continuing-education requirements over a period of five years (www.nala.org).

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Many legal assistants or paralegals go on to law school to become lawyers as they are already familiar with some of the responsibilities. A similar area of employment is in occupational health and safety as a technician or specialist. These individuals design safety programs, conduct tests, and make decisions about the safety of a workplace. Legal assistant skills also transfer to administrative assistant roles as well as those necessary for claims adjusters and appraisers. Additional education may be necessary for some of these roles, but not all.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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