Are you thinking you might like to become a legal assistant or paralegal?
It is important to understand what duties a legal assistant performs each day in order to decide if it is the right career for you.
Read on to learn which tasks are part of the job description of legal assistants, and whether they are duties you would like to do for work.
Because of the broad nature of the term legal assistant, we will look at tasks that legal assistants, paralegals, and legal secretaries are likely to be assigned to. But be aware that there is a difference between a legal assistant and paralegal.
Legal Assistant Job Duties
Whether working at a corporate, private, or governmental office, or in civil or criminal law office, there are certain tasks a legal assistant can expect to perform no matter where you’re employed. Assigned tasks will vary depending on your work experience and training.
Drafting court documents – Legal assistants often draft documents and file them with the court clerk’s office. These include: pleadings, motions, charging documents, subpoenas, and more.
Correspondence – Letters to clients, opposing counsel, and inter-agency communication make up a large part of paperwork. Sending requests for discovery, and fulfilling the requests of other attorneys.
Legal research – Investigations into related cases for case law and legal precedent. Research is conducted on the computer, in the library, and from law books.
Administrative tasks – Legal assistants perform many administrative duties that include: answering phones, sorting mail, and filing paperwork.
Case Management – Create and maintain case files. Monitoring court deadlines and timelines is of the utmost importance.
Confidentiality – One of the most important responsibilities of a legal assistant is maintaining confidentiality. You will be in contact with extremely sensitive information on a daily basis. The case file is considered work-product of the attorney and as such is governed by attorney-client privilege. As an employee of the law office, that privilege extends to the work you perform. It is imperative that you not disclose any information about the cases with which you come in contact.
Ethics – Legal assistants must be ethical. Lawyers are governed by pattern Rules of Professional Conduct. You should familiarize yourself with this code of ethics because your attorney will expect you to follow it without exception. In fact, attorneys are responsible for the conduct of the legal assistants on their cases, and if you violate an ethical rule, the attorney could be disbarred for your action.
Professionalism -You must present yourself in a way that is consistent with a professional law office. Because you will be working in an office environment, you will be expected to wear business attire. This is a career, not just a job, so your demeanor should reflect that accordingly. Often it is the legal assistant who has the most contact with clients, opposing counsel, and outside agencies, so it is vital that you represent your employer by always conducting yourself in a most professional manner.
There are many other legal assistant duties you could be tasked to complete. Responsibilities will vary depending on the type of law firm, kinds of cases the law office handles, and your level of experience.
Check out the 10 qualities of a great legal assistant, to see if you are a good match for this career.
The amount of training, education, and experience you have will affect the level of trust and responsibility you will be given.
Now you can take the next step and learn how to perform these job duties by completing legal assistant training.