Legal assistants do almost anything in a law office except give legal advice to clients or represent clients in court.
Role of a Legal Assistant
Attorneys may send legal assistants out to visit the scene of the crime or accident. Doing so helps to understand what happened. Legal assistants may take photos or videos and make notes on what they observe.
Back in the office, legal assistants determine the main legal issue or issues in question and research the applicable laws and relevant cases. Legal assistants must know how to use legal research databases. They must also know how to use case management software as everything related to the case needs to be scanned in and properly labeled so that the documents are easy to find.
Using the information gained through research, legal assistants prepare a brief for the attorney to review. A brief is an internal document that presents the facts, issues, and applicable law regarding the case. Under each issue is an analysis of the law and previous relevant cases. The analysis is applied to each issue of the client's case.
Legal assistants may accompany a lawyer to a criminal trial to keep the pieces of evidence organized. Assistants will hand the attorney the appropriate piece of evidence as the attorney introduces it to the court.
Median salary for legal assistants is $46,000. The lowest reported salary is $29,000. The highest reported salary is $75,000. Salary increases with experience and added responsibilities. Legal assistants in larger cities and law firms will make more money than a legal assistant in a small firm.
How to Become a Legal Assistant
In order to have a competitive edge, aspiring legal assistants should pursue an associate's or bachelor's degree in legal assisting. Students will learn about the various types of law and receive hands on experience trying out legal research software. Learning about the law and research databases gives potential legal assistants a solid understanding of the profession before they begin applying for positions.
Some states require a legal assistant to pass an exam and become certified and licensed. Check with your state's bar association or paralegal association to learn what is required. Voluntary certification is available through nationwide paralegal associations. Earning this certification shows that you are competent in the law as legal assistants must take an in depth written examination to pass.
Schools For Legal Assistants