What is a Legal Assistant?
A legal assistant elevates the efficiency of a law firm by providing clerical services and other supportive measures for lawyers. While the job does include a fair amount of secretarial work like answering phones, scheduling appointments, and filing paperwork, there are additional duties including attending court proceedings and researching information for a specific case.
A legal assistant must be able to juggle many tasks at once, have excellent communication skills, practice good judgement, and keep files and proceedings confidential.
A legal assistant may work with one lawyer or several at a time, depending on the size of a law firm and the number of cases handled.
Typically, a legal assistant’s resume includes an associate’s degree or a legal assistant certification. During these programs, one learns legal terminology, the purpose of certain legal documents, law firm practices, word processing, time management, and record keeping.
While formal education is usually required, that’s not always necessary. Law firms may be willing to work with an experienced assistant with strong clerical skills. This person will receive on-the-job training for specific law firm practices and legal documents as needed.
Legal Assistant Essential Skills
The need for legal assistants and others in the field is growing faster than other occupations in the U.S. While the demand increases, the same applies to the required skills necessary to land this position. As part of a legal Assistant job description, expect to see a list of required skills that includes:
- Strong command of the English language, grammar, and legal vocabulary to create and send professional court documents.
- Excellent communication. In many cases, it’s the legal Assistant who’s in charge of maintaining schedules, setting up appointments, and connecting with clients and witnesses, all of which requires impeccable communication.
- Organizational skills. From organizing documents within an internal law library to coordinating multiple schedules, a legal Assistant resume should outline organizational skills.
- Ability to type 60 to 80 words per minute. With a large number of court documents to type and deliver, all of which have tight deadlines, efficient typing is a must.
Legal Assistant Roles & Responsibilities
The roles and responsibilities of a legal assistant primarily focus on clerical responsibilities, but additional tasks may be added to your workload. Here’s a look at the expectations of this particular job:
- Have a strong understanding of legal terminology.
- Attend meetings and take notes for lawyers in attendance.
- Transcribe, proofread, and file legal documents before deadlines.
- Manage travel logistics for one or more attorneys.
- Answer phones and take messages.
- Manage schedules.
- Schedule court depositions, hearings, and other meetings as determined by an attorney.
- Keep and organize court files.
Wondering what a legal assistant does on a daily basis? Legal Assistant duties make for a busy day. In this role, a person will assist an attorney with routine tasks that keep court cases moving while making sure everyone stays informed. More specifically, a legal assistant will likely do the following tasks on a regular basis:
- Mail, fax, or email court documents to clients, witnesses, or court officials.
- Schedule meetings, manage changes to a schedule, and keep the lawyer informed of the day’s activities.
- Take calls, make calls, write and deliver messages.
- Organize internal court records for easy access at any time.
- Conduct research for a case, which may include obtaining medical or employment records.
- Be willing to attend court proceedings, take notes, and report back to a lawyer.
- Schedule and coordinate trips, pay for accommodations, and confirm meetings ahead of time.
- Process invoices for vendors.
The average legal assistant salary is $44,730, which is about $21.51 an hour. As you may expect, more experience warrants higher salaries. Top-earning legal secretaries can make up to $76,500.