What does a legal assistant do?
As you might guess, a legal assistant helps accomplish a variety of tasks in the law profession. The end goal is to help lawyers and others facilitate a solid relationship with clients and process vital documents efficiently. Some duties of a legal assistant include the following:
- Creating rough drafts of legal or court documents
- Maintaining document confidentiality and client privacy
- Communicating with and providing services for clients
- Assisting in the discovery process by way of researching documents and client history
- Document organization
- Clerical tasks - manage appointments, communicate with and maintain records on witnesses, draft contracts, send emails, file, and make copies
- Court assistance
What is the average salary of a legal assistant?
Your salary as a legal assistant will, on average, range from $44,847 to $59,808 per year. Extremes are $23,000 annually at the low end and over $87,000 yearly at the upper range. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BSL), which lumps paralegals and legal assistants together, the median salary for a legal assistant is $56,230 or about $27 an hour. The mean salary for legal assistants is $58,330. Your salary will vary according to your experience, education level, region, and type of law. Salaries run higher in large cities and the Northeast and on the West Coast. According to Payscale.com, which accounts for the fact that legal assistants make less than paralegals, you can expect an average wage of $17.26 per hour.
How does experience affect a legal assistant's salary?
Where you live has an important influence on how much you will make as a legal assistant, but your experience is even more crucial. At the entry level, you will earn up to 12% less than the national average salary. However, as you get 15 to 20 years of legal assistant experience under your belt, you have the potential to earn 20% to 40% more than your counterparts in the field.
What benefits to expect
Your salary as a legal assistant will often include a benefits package. According to the BSL, a bonus incentive can add up to $23,000 to your base pay. There are several ways in which your employer can present a package. You'll often find paid vacations included in the benefits, along with some sort of sign-on bonus. Extra incentives often come in the form of commissions, profit-sharing, health benefits, or bonus overtime.
Industries that hire legal assistants
As a legal assistant, you greatly expand your versatility. Many industries utilize legal assistants, so don't think that you are confined to a law firm. Legal assistants work in or with:
- Real estate
- Government - social security
- Corporate legal departments
- Talent seekers and agents
- Business executives
Working as a legal assistant
What are the responsibilities of a legal assistant?
Your responsibilities as a legal assistant are similar to those of a paralegal. Your primary role is to provide legal assistance to a lawyer or other individual. One of your primary duties is to track documents and make sure they are easily accessible, informative, and secure. Often, you have to draft reports into a more readable version, or interpret and translate witness and police statements. Your filing system must include cybersecurity and encryption. Your care of documents will frequently extend to the courtroom and interview rooms. Beyond the paperwork, client communication is among your most vital roles as a legal assistant. You will find many occasions where you provide the link between a client and the lawyer or a witness and law enforcement. Communications take place via text messages, telephone calls, emails, and interviews. You also:
- Greet clients and other visitors to the facility
- Answer telephone calls
- Schedule appointments and track court dates
- Assist lawyers with witness interviews and statements
- Edit and redraft affidavits, witness reports, and other documents
- Assist paralegals with their administrative and organizational duties
What type of equipment does a legal assistant use?
You do not need heavy-duty tools as a legal assistant. There are several pieces of equipment, though, that will make your job efficient.
- You need a copy machine to reproduce important documents and ensure the necessary access.
- A computer is among the most important types of equipment you need, as it is vital for storing information such as spreadsheets, billable hours, and client files.
- A shredder is a safe means to dispose of sensitive materials.
- Typical office supplies are necessary but easy to overlook - pens, notepads, calculators, scissors, hole punches, sticky pads, envelopes, stamps, file folders, and receipts.
- Along with the computer, software is essential, such as document management, calendars, and accounting programs.
What is the work environment of a legal assistant?
You will most often work in an office setting for most of your day as a legal assistant. However, you will also find yourself working in courtrooms, restaurants, conference rooms, and hotel lobbies depending on the law practice or business. A legal assistant work is well-suited to a hybridized remote work environment because of the huge amounts of research and file organization you must accomplish. However, you can also work completely from home while providing remote assistance to a law firm or other entity.
Who are your colleagues as a legal assistant?
As a legal assistant, you will work closely with lawyers, court judges, talent agents, insurance underwriters, adjusters, executives, retailers, government officials, or realtors. In larger firms, you will often team up with a paralegal. As the roles of legal assistants grow, you will frequently find that your tasks overlap with those of a legal secretary.
What is the work schedule of a legal assistant?
If you work as a legal assistant in a retail outlet or executive corporation, you are likely to enjoy regular business hours between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. You will get requisite breaks and a lengthy lunch period. Working for a lawyer will usually be much more demanding. You typically work the same long hours as the lawyer you are assisting, often even longer. You probably will serve as a legal assistant to more than one lawyer, and your workload is likely to be formidable. However, high job satisfaction usually results from the challenges you overcome. You can accomplish many of your tasks at home after the traditional workday is over if your practice allows it.
What is the career outlook for a legal assistant?
Among savvy law firms and progressive companies, the demand is high for legal assistants. Despite the movement toward automation of many processes, legal assistants provide services that are beyond the scope of artificial intelligence systems. Moreover, your legal background as a legal assistant opens career pathways for you as a paralegal or even a lawyer with further education. The BLS projects that your employment prospects as a legal assistant will grow about 12% during the coming decade, which is higher than the national average for most occupations.
What are the advantages of working with Spherion as a legal assistant?
If you aspire to a career as a legal assistant, then turn to Spherion to provide assistance and some life-changing advantages. You can take comfort in the fact that Spherion will match your unique skills with a customized legal assistant job.
Everyone has their signature work style. Allow the Spherion team to access its network partners to provide you with an office that fits you. You have options to work in the private or public sector or for a small and cozy or large and innovative company.
You can expect the following benefits from a leading staffing organization such as Spherion:
- Wide selection of jobs near where you live.
- Weekly pay.
- Stress-free and efficient interviewing process.
- Personal assistant that you can contact to help your job search.
- Training opportunities to help you succeed in your efforts to secure certifications, well-paying jobs, and salary increases.
- Flexible scheduling available.
What education do you need as a legal assistant?
You do not have to undergo formal education beyond high school or a GED to become a legal assistant. However, if you want to be competitive in the job market, most companies that are hiring legal assistants look for candidates with at least a two-year associate's degree. Such a degree is ideally for paralegal studies. Since paralegal academic courses are limited in some locales, you can also pursue a related field like criminology or legal studies. Another option that some law offices consider is a paralegal certificate. Although you may not necessarily have an associate's degree, a paralegal certificate indicates education and experience conducive to a legal assistant or paralegal occupation.
Can you substitute experience for a degree?
Depending upon where you apply, a firm may take experience in the legal field instead of an associate's or bachelor's degree. You are most likely to find these types of legal assistant jobs in suburbs rather than large metropolitans. The easiest way to gain experience is to work as a volunteer or paid employee in a law firm. Relevant positions include the following:
- Messenger (delivering legal documents)
- File clerk
- Bank personnel
- Externship - you receive on-the-job education at an insurance company, bank, law office, or government facility
- Serve on a litigation support team - help with e-discovery
- Legal receptionist
- Mailroom clerk
Most aspiring legal assistants need a bachelor's degree
Although a legal assistant job is an entry-level position, law firms commonly will only consider you for the position if you have a bachelor's degree. Your degree can be in anything, but common fields are business, social science, legal studies, and security. Quite often, aspiring legal assistants acquire paralegal studies certification in addition to their BS or BA.
Skills and competencies
As a legal assistant, you need to have impeccable time management and organizational skills. Whether you work in a law firm or for a large government agency, you need to be able to keep up with the hustle and bustle and yet keep everything running efficiently. Having competencies in the following areas is also paramount to excelling as a legal assistant.
- Writing - Editing and drafting of documents requires you to be a proficient writer and have a firm grasp of the English language.
- Detail-oriented - Paying attention to details helps with research and accuracy in your documentation and organization.
- Interpersonal skills are paramount to effective client communication and rapport.
- Multi-tasking - You must keep an agile mind and be able to take in information from different sources simultaneously.
- Technical skills - You need technical skills to work on computers and create videos and PowerPoint presentations your client or employer may desire.
Should you get certified in paralegal studies?
Many employers prefer to hire legal assistants with a paralegal certification. Certification indicates that you have received formal education in paralegal studies, have passed a certification exam, and have some experience in the field of law. You would conduct your formal education in a university or through an organization that is approved by the American Bar Association. Employers also often take individuals with paralegal certificates. These certificates show that a candidate has furthered their education and accomplished a certain mastery of paralegal issues.
Legal assistants are an important part of the stable, growing legal industry. Find out answers to these commonly asked questions about legal assistant roles.