It can be confusing to know the difference between legal assistants, paralegals, and legal secretaries, especially if you are new to the legal field.
It is a little difficult to distinguish between the three, since the terms are often used interchangeably.
However, there are some definite differences and we can easily clear up the confusion and separate these into three distinct legal support positions.
According to the legal assistant job description, paralegals and legal secretaries both fall under the category of legal assistants, so let’s explore explore the differences.
Legal Assistant vs. Paralegal
The title of paralegal is most often used for those who have a paralegal degree or certificate. A background of years of legal experience and training also qualifies a person to become a paralegal. At times, paralegals are hired if they have a bachelor’s degree in any field combined with legal-related work experience.
Paralegals are more likely to have the opportunities to interview clients and assist in trial preparation. A small law firm may only have enough money to hire one professional to handle all their administrative and legal support tasks. This person will probably be called a paralegal.
Legal assistants are often newer to the legal field than paralegals. Many have completed (or are enrolled in) paralegal schools and degree programs, and are working as legal assistants gaining valuable experience and earning trust from their attorneys. So it could even be said that legal assistants are paralegals in training.
Legal assistants perform most of the same tasks that paralegals do, but may be under the supervision of a paralegal or their work may be more closely examined by the attorneys for accuracy. Common job duties for legal assistants include tasks such as writing correspondence, drafting court documents, and case management.
Legal Assistant vs. Legal Secretary
Larger law firms may have various para legal staff. In these legal offices, it is common to find legal secretaries. Generally speaking, legal secretaries often have less legal education and work experience than their paralegal and legal assistant colleagues.
Legal secretaries are usually tasked with mail management, case set-up, and answering phones. It is imperative for legal secretaries to be familiar with legal vocabulary. Often the first contact a potential client may have with a law firm, the legal secretary greeting them is a representative of the whole office, so it is vital that they be knowledgeable and professional at all times.
Paralegals, legal assistants, and legal secretaries each have an integral role in the legal profession. We can see that the three have similar and even over lapping duties.
Now that you have an understanding of what sets each career apart from the others, you can start your journey to become the Best Legal Assistant!
You can begin by learning how to become a Legal Assistant today.