Legal Assistants play an essential role in the day-to-day operations of the law office or legal department. They help with case management, document preparation, maintaining calendars, communicating with clients and court officials, and assisting with attorneys’ needs. Legal Assistants must have excellent communication skills and keen attention to detail. They should also be comfortable working independently as well as part of a team.
Typical Duties and Responsibilities
- Maintain and organize files
- Conduct legal research
- Investigate and gather facts for cases
- Write or summarize reports
- Help lawyers during trials by taking notes or reviewing transcripts
- File exhibits, briefs, appeals, and other legal documents
- Communicate with clients, witnesses and attorneys
- Schedule interviews, meetings and depositions
Education and Background
Legal Assistants usually have at least an associate degree and/or have earned a certification in paralegal studies. A bachelor’s degree is preferred, as is law firm experience or training. Some firms might hire college graduates with a bachelor’s degree but no legal experience and then train them.
Skills and Competencies
- Excellent verbal and written communication skills
- Computer skills, including Microsoft Office Suite (Word, PowerPoint and Excel)
- Ability to multitask and meet deadlines
- Strong interpersonal skills and the ability to work well with others
- Solid research and writing skills
- Attention to detail
- Discretion and the ability to handle confidential information
- Expertise in time management and prioritization
According to Payscale the median annual salary of a Legal Assistant with
1 Year of Experience:
- Orlando, Florida: $36,000
- Tampa, Florida: $38,000
- Jacksonville, Florida: $31,000
- Miami, Florida: $42,000
- Atlanta, Georgia: $44,000
- Chicago, Illinois: $40,000
- Houston, Texas: $40,000
- Los Angeles, California: $42,000
- New York City, New York: $50,000
- Seattle, Washington: $40,000
- Overall: $41,000
5 Years of Experience:
- Orlando, Florida: $42,000
- Tampa, Florida: $42,000
- Jacksonville, Florida: $42,000
- Miami, Florida: $55,000
- Atlanta, Georgia: $48,000
- Chicago, Illinois: $50,000
- Houston, Texas: $48,000
- Los Angeles, California: $50,000
- New York City, New York: $60,000
- Seattle, Washington: $50,000
- Overall: $49,000
Similar Job Titles
The first step to becoming a Legal Assistant is to earn a high school diploma or its equivalent. Employers strongly prefer candidates with an associate or bachelor’s degree, ideally with some legal experience or training. Law firms also encourage Legal Assistants to be certified, either by the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) or the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA).
Legal Assistants work closely with attorneys at law firms, government agencies, and in corporate legal departments.
With clients seeking more affordable legal services, law firms have Legal Assistants and Paralegals take on some of the work previously done by entry-level lawyers. Doing so allows the firm to charge lower billing rates. As a result, the demand for Legal Assistants has increased, and future job prospects remain strong.
Many large companies are expanding their in-house legal departments to save money, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Hiring outside counsel costs more. As a result, there should be more opportunities for Legal Assistants in fields such as finance, insurance, consulting, and health care.
Many law firms are offering employees flex time and telecommuting to accommodate a better work-life balance.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for Paralegals and Legal Assistants is expected to grow by 12 percent for the next several years, which is much faster than average. People who have paralegal training and strong computer and database skills will be in demand.
The typical work hours in an office setting for a Legal Assistant are usually from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. However, many Legal Assistants can work more than 40 hours a week or on weekends, especially when nearing deadlines.
Where You Can Find Jobs
- 4 Corner Resources
- Career Builder
- Law Jobs
- Law Crossing
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