Legal assistants or paralegals are certified by a state or government agency to provide a variety of support functions to attorneys. Many of the tasks performed by legal assistants are equal to an attorney. However, legal assistants are not allowed to give legal advice, set legal fees or represent people in court. Legal assistants assist attorneys with trials, hearings and closings. They might investigate facts and identify laws and judicial decisions related to a case. Other responsibilities may include drafting a contract or separation agreement.
Educational Requirements to Become a Legal Assistant
Most community colleges offer an associate degree in legal assistant programs. People who have a bachelor’s degree can earn a certificate, and graduation from an approved American Bar Association program can enhance employment prospects. Some people are promoted from a legal secretary position and receive on-the-job-training. Courses in certificate and degree programs offer legal online search techniques and computer technology to parallel the legal changes with the Internet and technology.
Skills Necessary to Become a Legal Assistant
Legal assistants must have the ability to conduct and document legal research. They must also know legal terms and have the ability to investigate the facts of a case. People skills are essential since legal assistants work with the public.
Job and Career Outlook for a Legal Assistant
Employers will hire legal assistants to perform tasks that were once the sole responsibility of lawyers on the payroll in order to reduce costs. As their job duties expand, formerly trained legal assistant become more useful. Legal assistants may experience advancement to law related or supervisory positions in large law firms or corporate legal departments.
Salaries for legal assistants will vary based on education, experience, training, employer and geographic location. However, the average salary is $47,570 annually.