How to Become a Legal Assistant
The title legal assistant is synonymous with the title of paralegal. They are the same, unless he or she has received the certification of Certified Legal Assistant (CLA). To become a Certified Paralegal would likewise differentiate a person from being a legal assistant, but the overall job function of assisting lawyers in trial preparation and research remains the same.
Legal Assistant Qualifications, Requirements and Common Tasks
Legal assistants, as the name suggests, assist lawyers with many of the duties that they (the lawyers) used to perform. Duties such as document preparation, filing motions or other paperwork with the court that used to be the responsibility of the lawyer, are now delegated to paralegals or legal assistants. The most common tasks for legal assistants are research projects (i.e. looking up precedent cases or statutes that relate to the case), and writing assignments such as drafting letters or pleadings. Most firms require a legal assistant to have at least a two-year degree in addition to legal training, but do not always require certification. A legal assistant can become a Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) through certification testing performed by NALA (National Association of Legal Assistants). To be called a legal assistant in California for instance, you have to have received the certification, or you cannot be called a legal assistant (which would hinder chances of employment within the profession).
Legal Assistant Salary, Job Outlook and Employers
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, legal assistants and paralegals earn a median annual salary of $46,990 while the top 10% earn more than $75,410 per year.1 Private law firms are the largest employer of legal assistants while the government (D.A. Offices, etc.) employs most of the remainder. The legal assistant/paralegal profession is growing about as fast as the average occupation with the BLS projecting 17% job growth from 2012-2022.1
Schools Offering Legal Administration Programs
Penn Foster Schools
- Legal Secretary
- Paralegal Studies, AA (Online Only)
- Legal Studies, BA (Online)
- Certificate: Paralegal (Legal Studies)
- A.S. in Legal Studies
- B.S. in Legal Studies
- CERT: Paralegal Studies
Grand Canyon University
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/legal/paralegals-and-legal-assistants.htm
Page Edited by Charles Sipe.