Legal Assistant Jobs – What Do They Involve?

Legal assistants, formally known as paralegals, are an important part of the legal machinery in the US. These are people who act as helpers to attorneys and help them in several aspects of preparing and arguing their cases. It can be easily said that without legal assistants, it would be very difficult for attorneys to handle their various tasks. Naturally, there’s quite a demand for these jobs throughout the nation. Probably you are thinking of getting into this profession as well. However, before doing that, it is good to know basic facts about what these jobs entail.

What Are Legal Assistants Supposed to Do?

People who are working in this profession are mainly expected to work with attorneys in planning and implementing their arguments for court cases. They handle the research aspect of the job as well, foraging for past examples of cases and seeing how they can be implemented for current cases. They maintain records of the cases and present them whenever they are needed. They also take appointments with various people connected with the cases, interview them and record and report what they find out. They may also be responsible for accounting aspects of the attorney’s business. In some cases, they can handle special tasks such as serving notices and subpoenas, preparing divorce and separation settlements, preparing contracts and real estate agreements and so on.

However, legal assistants are only expected to help attorneys with the cases; they never have to make a direct appearance in court or to try the cases.

What Qualifications Are Needed?

You could become one by completing either an Associate’s Program or a Bachelor’s Program. These programs go on for 2 and 4 years respectively. Once you have these certificates in your hand, you can apply for paralegal professions. You could also specialize yourself in various aspects of legal assistant studies later on, such as real estate, marriage and divorce, immigration, drug laws, etc.

Where Are Legal Assistants Needed?

You will certainly want to know where the main prospects for legal assistant jobs lie. The best place to seek employment is in private law offices, where there is perennially a need for good assistants. You could also be employed by the government. However, these employments are given only to people with experience. There are paralegals needed for special purposes as well such as drafting agreements, making contracts, etc. for which you can work on a freelancing basis. There are also some paralegal jobs available on the Internet where people looking for legal advice or some other similar requirement post their needs.

What Salaries Can Be Expected?

Legal assistants are among the most highly-paid professionals today. Even a legal assistant who is just starting out will easily get an annual salary of between $40,000 and $50,000, which is certainly quite good. The salary rises quickly as the professional gains experience and begins working for institutions that have a good name. However, the scenario of getting legal assistant jobs is quite competitive and you would need to have the right kind of qualifications and training to get gainful employment in this field.

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Legal Assistants and Paralegals – The Future Is Bright

One of most common ways to become a legal assistant or paralegal is through a community college program that leads to an associate’s degree. Another common route; primarily for those who already have a college degree, is through a program that leads to a certification in paralegal studies.

Many legal assistants and paralegals have associate degrees in paralegal studies or a bachelor’s degree paired with a certificate in paralegal studies. Currently, a small number of schools offer bachelors’ or masters’ degrees in paralegal studies. A few employers train paralegals on the job, hiring college graduates with no legal experience or promoting experienced legal secretaries. Others have gained experience in a technical field useful to law firms, like tax preparation for tax and estate planning, criminal justice, nursing or health administration for personal injury practice.

With 250+ paralegal programs approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) and an estimated 1,000 colleges and universities, law schools and proprietary schools offering formal paralegal training programs – the field is highly represented. Although many programs don’t require ABA approval, graduating from an ABA-approved program can enhance one’s employment opportunities – it’s a credibility thing for some employers.

Program admission requirements vary greatly – from a few college credits or courses to a bachelor’s degree for others, to high school graduates, those with legal experience, passing a standardized test, to simply having a favorable personal interview.

Many legal assistant and paralegal programs include 2-year associate degree programs, 4-year bachelor degree programs and certificate programs that can take as little as a few months to complete. Most certificate programs provide intensive and specialized paralegal training for individuals who already hold college degrees. On the other hand, associate and bachelor degree programs usually combine paralegal training with courses in other academic subjects.

Obviously, the quality of paralegal training programs can vary with the higher quality programs usually including job placement services.

Courses range from introducing students to the legal applications of computers, including how to perform legal research on the Internet to more and more paralegal training programs offering internships to assist students in gaining practical experience by working for several months in the real world. Internships could be with a private law firm, the office of a public defender or attorney general, a bank, a corporate legal department, a legal aid organization or a government agency. Clearly, the experience gained is an asset when one is seeking a job after graduation and for many can lead to a job with the company they interned with.

Most employers don’t require certification but earning a voluntary certificate from a professional society does have its advantages when it comes to finding a job. The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) has established standards for certification that requires various combinations of education and experience. Paralegals who meet their standards are eligible to take a 2-day examination, offered three times a year at one of several regional testing centers. Those who pass can then use the Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) designation. NALA also offers an advanced paralegal certification for those who want to specialize in specific areas of the law.

The Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam offers professional recognition to legal assistants and paralegals that have earned a bachelor’s degree and have at least 2 years of experience. Once they pass this test they can use the Registered Paralegal (RP) designation.

Legal assistants and paralegals must have the ability to document and present their findings and opinions to their supervising attorneys. They also need to understand legal terminology, have good research and investigative skills and be able to do legal research using a computer and the internet. They also need to stay abreast of new developments in the laws that affect their area of expertise. The most common way many legal assistants and paralegals expand their knowledge is by participating in continuing legal education seminars.

Because legal assistants and paralegals deal with the public on an ongoing basis they need to be “shining examples” of ethical standards for the legal profession. The National Association of Legal Assistants, the National Federation of Paralegal Associations and a few States have established ethical guidelines for them to follow.

Employment Outlook

Legal assistants and paralegals held about 224,000 jobs in 2004 with about 70% being employed by private law firms; most of the remainder worked for corporate legal departments and various levels of government. Within the Federal Government, the U.S. Department of Justice is the largest employer, followed by the Social Security Administration and the U.S. Department of the Treasury. A small number of paralegals own their own businesses and work as freelance legal assistants, contracting their services to attorneys or corporate legal departments.

As a whole, employment in this field is projected to grow much faster than average. The current trend of employers trying to reduce costs by hiring paralegals to perform duties formerly carried out by lawyers is expected to continue into the foreseeable future. As a result, employment opportunities are projected to grow much faster than average for the next 10 years or so.

As in all fields, compensation varies greatly due to the high number of variables but in general, salaries depend on education, training, experience, the type and size of employer and the geographic location of the job. As a whole, legal assistants and paralegals who work for large law firms or in large metropolitan areas earn more than those who work for smaller firms or in less populated regions. In addition to salary, many also receive bonuses. In mid 2004, the average salary for all legal assistants or paralegal was a tad over $39,000 per year.

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What is the Difference Between a Paralegal and a Legal Assistant?

Throughout a long history of the legal profession, the terms paralegal and legal assistant have been practically synonymous. As the legal assistant community continues to evolve, a slight difference now exists. Just what is the difference between a paralegal and legal assistant?

All in a Day’s Work

Paralegals are more involved with legal research and legal case work than a legal assistant. Paralegals draft legal documents that often takes more research and background knowledge than that of a legal assistant. Most private firms hiring paralegals prefer them to have a background in political science or law to help in research or trial preparation.

Legal assistants are usually involved in managing the administrative tasks required by the paralegals and lawyers. They may be in charge of maintaining precise research and trial records. They are often responsible for making sure that court filing needs are successfully met. Most have a secretarial or clerical background. Their capabilities of precise record keeping and supporting multiple lawyers and paralegals can be indispensable.

Different Work, but Similar Pay

The difference between the two really comes down to the type of work they perform. Most working paralegals make between $35,000 to $50,000 a year, though salary is dependent upon location and experience. Paralegals working in metropolitan areas enjoy higher pay. They can also improve their salaries by earning a paralegals credentials program certificate.

In spite of the differences in the type of work each does, both enjoy similar rates of pay. A legal assistant’s salary also depends on the type of work and the location of the work. They, too, can improve their salaries through available certifications.

Know the Demands of Each Job

Regardless of which job direction you pursue, be aware of what you are getting into. Both of these jobs work in high pressure situations, either from law firms or government agencies. If you can handle a good deal of stress, it can be a good field as the industry is growing. Part of this stems from the vast amount of research that needs done to E-discovery, but it also stems from private firms wishing to save costs. If they can, they’ll give the task to a paralegal or assistant rather than a lawyer because it’s less expensive.

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Differences Between a Paralegal and Legal Assistant

Most of us think that legal assistants and paralegals are the same but actually there is a difference between the two. Although a Paralegal may also be known as a Legal Assistant, in some geographical areas, there is a difference between the two.

No matter what, Paralegals and Legal Assistants are different in terms of their job titles. The Paralegal is more involved in legal research and actual casework as compared to a Legal Assistant. Paralegals may be involved in the drafting of legal documents which demands more research and background knowledge. Private organizations hiring Paralegals often prefer those who have background in political science or law to help them in research and trial preparation.

Legal Assistants are often involved in managing the administrative tasks that are required by the Paralegals and lawyers. For instance, Legal Assistants may be in charge of maintaining precise trial records and research or to make sure that all the court filing needs are successfully met. The people working as Legal Assistants mainly have a clerical or secretarial background, as the capabilities of maintaining precise records and supporting multiple people are indispensable.

The differences between a Paralegal and a Legal Assistant lie mainly in the kind of work they perform. A working Paralegal is able to earn around $35000 to $50000 a year. The salary range may vary according to the location and experience of an individual. The experienced Paralegals living in metropolitan cities enjoy a higher pay scale. Also, the Paralegals can improve their salary by earning the certified paralegal credentials program certificate. The certificate adds to both qualification and knowledge of a paralegal.

In spite of the differences in job duties between a paralegal and a legal assistant, the salaries earned by both are quite similar. The salary of a legal assistant basically depends on the kind of job duties assigned and the location of work. The legal assistants also have an opportunity to improve their salary outlook by earning various certifications like certified legal assistant program through NALA.

Despite of the job title you pursue, it is vital to keep yourself aware of the different demands of each title. Legal Assistants and Paralegals have to work in a high pressure environment as most of them are employed either in government agencies or private law organizations. It is a great field to make handsome money and social status if you are comfortable working in such situations.

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Assistive Technology An Independent Life For Everyone

Not depending on others is very important for every human being. As technology progresses everyday and the development includes specially designed devices and equipment, everyone can now enjoy an independent life style. Even people with disabilities can have a better life, avoiding frustration or incapacity to communicate. Assistive technology is for a great help for those who need to feel secure when they are by themselves, even if they have certain disabilities. Our assistive technology products meet their needs and offer an alternative for a better life. Communication for example, is one of the biggest problems for people with disabilities, but our assistive technology products make it easier. Even if your problem is about hearing, seeing or moving around, the solutions we offer can solve any type of problem related to physical challenges.

We also offer you a great variety of products as furniture, software, workstations or switches, specially created for an independent living. You can enjoy assistive technology products in your own house and anywhere you go, avoiding frustrations and difficulties you were exposed to before. Assistive technology is even for people who suffer from Parkinson, Lou Getring’s Disease aka Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or Multiple Sclerosis. All the products we recommend are easy to use, the technology being adapted to every special need. Now, deaf-blind people will be able to communicate between themselves or with other people because assistive technology makes it possible.

If you want to make your children’s life easier, now you can do it with the help of special communication software or CDs that contains all kinds of information about social activities. Eating out, shopping, transportation are some of the social activities children need to learn about before they go out. This and some other assistive technology products can help your children have a better, independent life, even if they have some disabilities. It’s important to mention that these teaching products are not only for children, but also for people who have found themselves, all of a sudden, in the undesirable situation of an accident that has affected their health.

Our furniture is designed for people who need better access in the kitchen, bathroom or in the bedroom and for those who need special workstations in their homes or offices. You don’t have to feel uncomfortable at your desk anymore, because now you have the perfect solution, easily accessible through an online order.

In one word, assistive technology is for those who want to raise the standard of living, for those who need to increase the quality of life because an independent living is now possible through technology. This is why our products come to meet your special needs, helping you achieve what you want.

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