Whether you’re a hiring manager looking for the ideal legal assistant or that eager job-seeker looking for a way to get your foot in the legal profession door, you must familiarize yourself with exactly what it takes to help lawyers function. A legal assistant job description must include the many layers in which you, as an employee, are expected to contribute. But let’s face it, any job or employee search can still challenge your knowledge of the position even when you’ve done the homework. That’s just the beauty of it all. Equipping yourself with the ins-and-outs of the position is nonetheless a great start so let’s get started!
What Does a Legal Assistant Do?
Although a legal assistant in a criminal defense law firm has a completely different day than a legal assistant in an intellectual property firm, they will share a common thread in performing duties akin to what an actual lawyer does. A legal assistant is a legal professional who does many of the same work that lawyers do. However, there are particular tasks that are only reserved for licensed attorneys. Becoming a legal assistant doesn’t require a specific certification or degree. However, many legal assistants do have a bachelor’s degree and some have two-year associates degrees. You can get a certification as a legal assistant by completing a voluntary certification program of a professional association. Experience and qualifications make any resume that much more desirable!
If you really want to become a legal assistant, you should gain an entry-level position in a law firm and work your way up. Then get a certificate and obtain employment as an entry-level legal assistant. Actually, a lot of legal assistants start working with an administrative role and eventually become a paralegal. Sometimes if you are lucky, there are companies that would send some employees to training and education needed to conduct paralegal tasks. Another way to become a legal assistant is to gain a paralegal certificate to become qualified to a paralegal job. A lot of vocational schools, junior colleges and big universities offer paralegal certificate programs. You can get a certificate program that would teach you the basics of legal research and analysis, the judicial process, legal ethics, and other important skills needed for being an effective paralegal. It takes time and effort to be a legal assistant. So if you are really determined to get a career out of it, you must gain knowledge and insight to know if this kind of profession is right for you.
Before diving into a decision of becoming a legal assistant, you should make sure that you know the tasks that you must and must not do. For example, a paralegal is not able to give clients legal advice or setting fees and acting as counsel in a courtroom.
A legal assistant assists a lawyer usually in the areas where the lawyer doesn’t have time to complete. Being a lawyer is a combination of busy, tedious paperwork and creative analytical thinking. Lawyers need help with the grunt work so they can devote more time and energy towards their legal arguments. This is where the legal assistant comes in. Lawyers, as a matter of fact, have a lot to do, so they delegate many various tasks to legal assistants in order to beat all the deadlines because they don’t have much time. Sometimes other lawyers would train their legal secretaries to perform paralegal work but most lawyers don’t have enough time for training. So most lawyers prefer to hire candidates with backgrounds in law or a paralegal certificate. But then, it is still better if you have both.
The majority of the work that a legal assistant does is paperwork. This can be a little boring because it requires understanding most of the legal proceedings that will occur. However, it also involves fascinating cases. Becoming a legal assistant is tedious ad requires hard work, determination, patience, effort and time. If you don’t have these factors, it will be a lot harder. Going in to the interview with this kind of knowledge about the job will greatly increase your chances of landing the job!
What a Legal Assistant Job Description Looks Like
Below is a sample job description for a Legal Assistant taken from Monster.com. It is a very general template for the legal assistant position. As I mentioned above, the legal assistant job description will greatly vary with the particular area of law involved. Some lawyers don’t ever go to trial but need legal assistants for other tasks. And then there are those lawyers who are always in court, thereby needing an assistant to prepare all the court paperwork for them.
Legal Assistant Job Description Sample
Description: Legal Assistant
Legal Assistant Job Purpose: Enhances attorney effectiveness by developing case information, evidence, and settlement options; tracking cases; supporting attorney’s trial proceedings.
Legal Assistant Job Duties:
- Keeps cases organized by establishing and organizing files; monitoring calendars; meeting deadlines; documenting actions; inputting information into file database and case management software; confirming case status with attorney.
- Helps develop cases by maintaining contact with people involved in the case; scheduling depositions; preparing and forwarding summonses and subpoenas; drafting complaints; preparing and filing discovery requests; preparing responses to opposing counsel; generating status reports.
- Keeps clients informed by maintaining contact; communicating case progress.
- Maintains case costs by verifying outstanding balances with attorney, clients, and providers.
- Supports case preparation by preparing case summaries and materials for mediation conferences; preparing pleadings; monitoring and obtaining discovery responses; organizing materials for team case review.
- Enhances trial proceedings by organizing evidence; preparing exhibits; scheduling witnesses; ensuring that witnesses are ready when needed; taking courtroom notes.
- Updates job knowledge by participating in educational opportunities; reading professional publications.
- Accomplishes organization goals by accepting ownership for accomplishing new and different requests; exploring opportunities to add value to job accomplishments.
Skills/Qualifications: Reporting Skills, Research Skills, Legal Administration Skills, Litigation, Client Relationships, Organization, Planning, Attention to Detail, Confidentiality, Dependability, Client Confidentiality
Again, this is a general bare bones template of the tasks needed to assist any lawyer in any field. If you have an interest in a particular field of law, a bit more research will be needed to flush out the actual duties of a legal assistant in that field. Be sure to visit and enroll in Udemy’s Job Analysis Methods course to get a leg up on your job search! Either way, you’re off to a great start!