Difference Between Paralegal and Legal Assistant (With Table)

Today being a lawyer is one of the most successful career options. The reason behind this could be the need for legal help and opinion for most of the things, as nowadays people sue each other over little things. But being a lawyer is not an easy job. You have to be qualified with several degrees. Some people think this is the only profession associated with legal terms. This is not true at all. There are other professions as well that are associated with the legal profession. The best examples of such professions are Paralegal and Legal Assistant. Both of them are similar and therefore create confusion.

Paralegal vs Legal Assistant

The difference between Paralegal and Legal Assistants is that both of them require different education qualifications for the profession. To be a paralegal, either an associate or bachelor’s degree is required, while legal assistance does not require these degrees. Anyone can pursue this as a career after completing high school. A paralegal is associated with more field and legal work, while the main responsibilities of a legal assistant are to perform the administrative work of the case or lawyer. They also differ in terms of the skills required, experience required, and their involvement in the trial, etc.

A paralegal is a profession that usually works under the lawyer, they are associated with different tasks such as, they have to explain the legal terms of the trial to the client, also have to attend the legal proceedings, have to file appeals with opposition, etc. the education required for this profession is either an associate degree or a bachelor degree. An experience of few years is also required before working under a lawyer.  

A legal assistant is a type of assistant that works under the lawyer for fulfilling the tasks related to administration. They have to schedule the meeting of lawyers and witnesses, it is their responsibility to maintain and keep the legal documents, they have collected the evidence and legal documents so that the lawyer can review them, etc. this profession does not require much educational qualification and experience, they generally don’t have a direct meeting with the clients.

Comparison Table Between Paralegal and Legal Assistant

Parameters of ComparisonParalegal AssistantLegal Assistant
Client contactDrafting and explain legal documentsAdministrative tasks
Main skillsLaw technical skillsA broad range of skills
Educational requirementMore degreesLess education
Involvement in case preparationResearch of the caseSecretary work.
ExperienceMoreLess

What is Paralegal Assistant?

It is a legal profession that is retained by a law office or lawyer. They work under a lawyer. They cannot participate directly in any legal actions such as representing clients, other activities that may be considered as practicing law. Following are some of the duties or work that a paralegal has to perform:

  • They have to conduct an interview with the clients, in which they have to make them understand all the legal terms of the document (which is drafted by them), and they have to maintain contact with them.
  • They have to perform all the necessary research on the case for the lawyer to study.
  • They have to draft documents, pleadings, etc., for the case so that the lawyer can review them.
  • They also have to attend the legal proceedings with the lawyer in the court.
  • They have to search for all the potential witnesses and interview them. 
  • They have to make a report in which they have to summarize the testimonies, interrogatories, and depositions.
  • They are also responsible for filing the appeal with opposition lawyers. 
  • They have to draft bills for their clients as well.

Some paralegals work independently and are hired by law firms for all the above work, while other work in an old-fashioned way under a lawyer.

What is Legal Assistant?

It is the legal profession responsible for fulfilling administrative work along with some customer services within a law office. They may also perform similar duties as a paralegal, but their main work is of like a secretary. They have the following tasks to perform:

  • They also have to draft and proofread the legal documents. 
  • They have to draft the bills to the clients and make sure they send them. Also, they have solved any bill-related problem.
  • They collect and organize any potential witness or evidence that might come in handy.
  • They are responsible for scheduling the meeting between lawyer, client, and paralegal for communizing about the case and trial. 
  • They also have to manage the lawyers’ calendar and arrange meetings with the potential clients. 

Along with all the above-mentioned tasks, they may also have to perform some general administrative tasks of a secretary for the lawyer. This is an easy profession that can be pursued after high school and provides a good amount of salary as well.

Main Differences Between Paralegal and Legal Assistant

  1. Both paralegal and a legal assistant cannot give any legal advice or opinion to the client, but they are associated with different types of work with the client. The paralegal is responsible for drafting the legal documents of the case, and he has to explain the legalities of the document to the client, whereas the legal assistant is more associated with the administrative tasks.
  2. Both professions require different types of skills, top skills required for a paralegal are litigation, Microsoft office, legal documentation, legal research, legal document composition, whereas the top skills required for the legal assistant are administrative support, Microsoft office, scheduling, legal support, data entry.
  3. To be a paralegal, you should have either a two-year associate degree or a four-year bachelor’s degree (these may differ depending upon the geographical location), whereas legal assistants may not require any of these degrees. They are eligible after the completion of high school.
  4. Both of them are involved in the trial of the case, a paralegal has to perform tasks such as researches, interviews of the potential witnesses, prepares statements and arguments for the lawyer, etc. whereas legal assistant is involved in the administrative work of the trial such as organizing files and documents of the case for the lawyer, scheduling meeting for witnesses, lawyers and paralegals.
  5. The paralegal profession requires more experience in the field as it is associated with more legal duties, whereas less experience is required for working as a legal assistant as he mainly has to perform administrative work.

Conclusion

Hence, with all the above-mentioned information and difference between both, it is easy to understand the Paralegal and Legal Assistant professions. Both of them are associated with legal duties that are mostly to help the lawyer. They cannot provide a direct legal suggestion or opinion to the client. They are easier than becoming a lawyer as fewer degrees and experience are required to be qualified. Still, both of them are paid a good amount. Although the salary of a legal assistant is relatively high, this mostly depends on the country and state. Both of them have the respective duties they need to perform, which are mostly decided by the person they are working under.

References

  1. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=eLQUBh3aqOUC&oi=fnd&pg=PT5&dq=paralegal+and+legal+assistant&ots=v6VrnCBSeN&sig=gr6-THZicGPMQ-lH4JbL24skozU
  2. https://heinonline.org/hol-cgi-bin/get_pdf.cgi?handle=hein.journals/jpep7&section=7
  3. https://heinonline.org/hol-cgi-bin/get_pdf.cgi?handle=hein.journals/jpep9&section=5
  4. https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/44160189.pdf
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