How to Become a Legal Assistant

How to Become a Legal Assistant: Career Path Guide

If you have a strong work ethic, you enjoy working with people, and you sweat the details, then a career as a legal assistant is well worth considering.

 

If you're looking for a way to get onto the fast track to becoming a lawyer however, this will not be an effective route to take.

 

This demanding but rewarding field offers a consistent schedule, the opportunity to work with a variety of legal professionals, and the chance to perform many different types of administrative duties.

 

If becoming a legal assistant sounds promising, then read on below; we’ll fill you in on what you’d be doing, how much you could make, and what you need to do to get into this field!

 

 

Education Required to Become a Legal Assistant

Most commonly, employers prefer to hire candidates that have a post-secondary diploma or certificate in an accredited legal assistant or paralegal program.

 

Some employers however, will only require that you have a high school diploma, provided you have some experience working in a law office or as an administrative assistant.

 

 

 

Experience You’ll Need

Most employers will state on job postings that they’re looking for candidates with 1-5 years of experience working in a legal support position.

 

This is the ultimate job search catch-22. How are you supposed to qualify for these jobs if you’re just starting and don’t have any experience? Well, the answer lies in your education.

 

Many employers will formal education in the field in place of work experience. Also, many legal assistant/paralegal programs offer work-placement opportunities, which count as relevant experience.

 

Success Tip: Just because a job posting says “2 years experience in a legal office,” doesn’t necessarily mean that’s written in stone. If you don’t have the experience, but you have a relevant education and you interview well, then you have a great shot at getting the job. 

 

 

Skills You'll Need

In order to become a legal assistant, and perform your job effectively once you’ve been hired on, you’ll need a certain set of hard and soft skills, including:

 

Hard Skills

 

• Familiarity with legal terminology and legal procedures

• Technical understanding of a specific legal specialty

• Excellent typing speed

• Proficiency in using Microsoft Word, Excel and Microsoft Outlook

 

 

Soft Skills

 

• Excellent attention to detail

• Strong clerical and organization skills

• The ability to listen carefully to instructions

• The ability to work with minimal supervision

• The ability to effectively communicate with internal and external clients, attorneys & support staff

 

 

What You’d Be Doing: General Job Description

As a legal assistant, your job would be to assist legal professionals by performing a wide variety of administrative and clerical functions.

 

For example, some of your primary responsibilities would include maintaining and organizing files, conducting legal research, and drafting legal documents.

 

 

Is Becoming a Legal Assistant Right for You?

If the following traits describe you, then you should be well suited for a career as a legal assistant:

 

• You have a cooperative and team oriented attitude

• You take work duties seriously

• You’re willing and able to follow rules and directions

• You’re logical, task oriented and analytical

• You enjoy taking a methodical approach to compiling information

• You enjoy dealing with people

• You enjoy the idea of working a 9-5 job in an office setting

• You have a commitment to confidentiality, ethical behavior, and workplace decorum

 

 

General Job Duties

Although the functions you would perform as a legal assistant could vary from job to job, tasks you would be responsible for performing might include:

 

• Attending court proceedings or company meetings to take notes, minutes and dictation

• Reviewing outgoing legal documents to ensure they are accurate, complete and compliant with legal procedures

• Scheduling appointments and meetings

• Responding to internal and external inquiries

• Transcribing correspondence and legal documents from digital recordings or handwritten notes

• Performing routine accounting duties, such as entering invoices and paying bills

• Setting up and maintaining records management systems

 

 

What Kind of Salary Can You Earn?

The salary level you could earn as a legal assistant can vary, typically depending on the following factors:

 

• Your professional qualifications (education, experience, etc.)

• The size and budget of your employer

• The region in which you work

• The scope of your job duties

 

Legal Assistant Salary - Alberta: According to the 2015 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, the average salary level of Albertans working in the Legal Assistant occupational group earn an average salary of $54,640 per year.

 

Legal Assistant Salary - Canada: According to Service Canada, the average salary level of Canadians working in the Paralegal and Related Occupations occupational group is $45,400 per year.

 

Legal Assistant Salary - United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean salary level (2014) of Americans working in the Paralegals and Legal Assistants occupational group is $48,350 per year.

 

 

Work Environment

As a legal assistant, you would work in a fast-paced office environment. It’s likely that you’d work standard office hours, but overtime may occasionally be required to meet deadlines, attend meetings, and perform other duties. 

 

 

Who Employs Legal Assistants?

The following types of organizations are typical employers of legal assistants:

 

• Law firms

• Legal departments within large corporations

• Real estate companies

• Insurance companies

• Municipal, provincial/state and federal courts

• Related government departments and agencies (for example, land title offices and registries offices)

 

 

Legal Assistant Jobs

Our job board below has "Legal Assistant" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.

Career Advancement Possibilities

If you display a good work ethic and competence when performing your duties, there will be many opportunities to move into other roles or to otherwise advance your career. Some forms of career advancement that will be open to you may include:

 

• Becoming a team leader or supervisor

• Becoming the office manager

• Becoming a law clerk or paralegal

 

Please Note: While working as a law clerk does not offer a shortened route to becoming a lawyer, the experience and knowledge gained while working as a clerk would be very useful and relevant for a legal career.

 

 

Careers Similar to ‘Legal Assistant’

Listed below are occupations in our database that have similar responsibilities, and/or require similar skills, or be in the same sector of industry, as Legal Assistant:

 

• Administrative Assistant

• Judge

• Law Clerk

• Lawyer

• Office Manager

• Paralegal

 

 

References

Information for this career guide was compiled from the websites listed below. Some information has also been compiled from actual job postings from various organizations, which cannot be listed here due to the brief nature of their online availability.

 

• Alberta Learning Information Service website - Legal Assistant: occinfo.alis.alberta.ca

• Grant MacEwan University website - Legal Assistant: www.macewan.ca

• SAIT Polytechnic website - Legal Assistant: www.sait.ca

• United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website - Paralegals and Legal Assistants: www.bls.gov

 

 

Scholarships for Becoming a Legal Assistant

The “Applicable Majors” section below shows fields of study relevant to a career as a legal assistant. You can search for scholarships matched to those fields of study on our All Scholarships by Major page.

 

Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!

 

 

Becoming a Legal Assistant: Applicable Majors

Studying one of the college/university majors listed below can be helpful for becoming a legal assistant. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!

 


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