Paralegal and Legal Assistants

You don’t have to be a lawyer to work in the legal profession. Two of the most common jobs in this industry are paralegals or legal assistants. A paralegal is a legal professional who is retained by a law office, lawyer, or government agency and who performs legal work for lawyers. A legal assistant is a professional who's responsible for performing administrative and customer service duties within a law office. While they may help the lawyers research cases in the same way that paralegals do, they generally perform more secretarial work. They also may be called “administrative assistants” or “legal secretaries.” Paralegals offer technical support for lawyers and often help with a variety of client-related tasks. They are often the secondary point of contact for clients once the lawyer is assigned to a case. While they may perform some administrative duties, they are more involved with legal tasks. They conduct interviews with the client and maintain contact with them, perform legal research, and draft documents, pleadings, and correspondence. They also attend legal proceedings with lawyers, locate and interview witnesses, and summarize testimony, depositions, and interrogatories. In addition, they file appeals with opposing lawyers. Legal assistants help with administrative and customer service tasks. They draft and proofread legal documents and correspondence, and manage client billing by preparing and sending out bills and resolving billing issues. They also collect and organize the evidence and legal documents for the lawyer to review, communicate with witnesses and clients to schedule interviews, depositions, and meetings, and organize and maintain documents in filing systems, both paper and electronic. Most paralegals have either a two-year associate degree or a four-year bachelor's degree. A legal assistant may not need any additional education after completing high school. Some law firms offer on-the-job training for people with no formal education or legal experience. Also, some employers may prefer to hire legal assistants who have an associate degree or completed a certificate program. While certification is not required for paralegals or legal assistants, it may enhance your professional credibility and income potential.

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