In short, a legal assistant helps a lawyer with the case proceedings, and thereby reduces his/her workload and stress. The job profile is not the same in every country, and given here is a general description of the duties and responsibilities of a legal assistant.
As mentioned earlier, the paralegal job description includes assisting a lawyer and helping him/her with legal services. A legal assistant can also work for an administrative law examiner, an administrative law specialist, prosecutor training coordinators or attorneys. He is generally not allowed to provide legal advice to clients.
Here are his main duties:
- Reviews case records, gathers necessary data, and update the case progress. Depending on the study and analysis of the cases, he gives oral presentations and also prepares case reports.
- Researches old cases, investigates facts related to the current case, and provides suggestions related to current proceedings.
- Updates legal publications and works to upgrade the law library.
- Prepares letters for yearly audits.
- Prepares annual or quarterly reports.
- Attends the executions of wills, real estate closings, depositions, and court trials with the lawyer.
- Analyzes the available data and suggests some of the best solutions to solve a problem or case.
There are no specific educational requirements to become a paralegal or a legal assistant. One can acquire an Associate Degree in Paralegal Studies or even get a Bachelor's degree in other related fields, and start a career as legal assistant.
However, students who aspire to become a paralegal, prefer to join a college or law school that provides an Associate Degree in Paralegal Studies. Students who have already earned a Bachelor's degree or an Associate degree in any other field, can opt for a Certificate Course in Paralegal Studies or join a paralegal training program.
The salary varies depending upon the employer, educational qualification, work experience etc. While freshers draw about $23,706 to $46,307; the experienced ones earn between $31,630 and $66,012. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, median annual wage of legal assistants and paralegals was $50,410 per year (May 2017) and the hourly wage was $24.24.
Salaries of paralegals based on years of experience are -
- <1 to 4 years - approx. $40,078
- 5 to 9 years - approx. $49,079
- 10 to 19 years - approx. $56,837
Legal assistant salaries according to educational qualification are -
- Certified Paralegal - approx. $51,000
- Certified Legal Assistant - approx. $48,000
- Legal Administrative Assistant - approx. $48,729