What Are the Job Duties of a Legal Assistant?

Are you interested in the legal field, but you don't plan on entering law school or taking the bar exam? You might want to find a position as a legal assistant, also called a paralegal. Legal assistants organize court materials and help lawyers with their caseloads. Specialized job duties vary by the industry in which you're employed. Schools offering Paralegal degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Job Duties of a Legal Assistant

Legal assistants perform a multitude of legal tasks, such as conducting legal research and organizing documents for presentation in court. They must also manage complex, computerized records of legal literature and documents. Legal assistants usually work in an office setting for a law firm, private company or government agency.

As a legal assistant, you'll need to know important court procedures so that you can aid attorneys with court trials and meetings. You can gain the necessary legal knowledge through a paralegal associate's degree program and on-the-job training. Although you should be well-versed in a variety of legal proceedings, you won't be able to offer legal advice or practice law. Additional legal assistant duties can vary based on the firm's specialty or the particular office that you work in.

Important Facts About Legal Assistants

Median Salary (2014) $48,350 per year
Job Outlook (2012-2022) 17% growth
Key Skills Reading comprehension, critical thinking, time management, thorough researching, excellent written and spoken communication, decision making, clear judgment
Similar Occupations Lawyers, secretaries, administrative assistants, occupational health and safety specialists, claims adjusters, appraisers, examiners, and investigators

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Corporate Law

Many legal assistants enter the private sector, working for a law firm or a corporation's legal department. If you're a paralegal in this field, you might research changes in the laws and regulations that affect the corporation or business. You'll usually handle the paperwork for employee benefit submissions, grievance procedures or consumer complaints directed at the company. You also might help research the legal implications of specific contracts and help draft new agreements. If you hold specific knowledge of tax law, you could also prepare supporting documents for a company's or a client's tax returns and audits.

Public Sector

If you choose to start a career in the public sector, you might work for local or federal government entities, or you could work for consumer advocacy groups and non-profit agencies. As a legal assistant, you'll often be assigned to community-based tasks that help disadvantaged clients who might not normally gain access to legal representation. The cases that you work on might involve issues like racial or gender discrimination. You also might aid lawyers with child safety hearings or poverty-related cases.

Freelance Work

If you choose to become a freelance legal assistant, you can rotate working under a variety of different lawyers or law firms. The work will usually be given to you on a project-by-project basis. You might conduct general legal assistant work in a number of different legal fields, or you might choose to freelance in a particular area, such as real estate law, tax law or criminal law.

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