What Are Legal Assistant Responsibilities? (With Skills)
Updated 23 March 2023
A legal assistant may sometimes be confused with a paralegal, but the roles are quite different. A legal assistant's role is typically an entry-level job in the legal industry that exists to provide support to lawyers, solicitors and law firms. Learning about legal assistant responsibilities may help you decide if this is the right career choice for you. In this article, we define what a legal assistant is, discuss legal assistant responsibilities, provide four steps to becoming a legal assistant and review the necessary skills of a legal assistant.
What is a legal assistant?
Legal assistants are professionals who complete work that is often administrative on behalf of a lawyer. They often handle tasks like preparing legal paperwork and billing. They may also help with trial preparation and can assist clients by answering many of their questions.
Legal assistant responsibilities and roles
Some legal assistant responsibilities may include:
Manage client communication
Hiring a legal assistant may increase the efficiency of law firms. Legal assistants are typically the first point of contact when a client contacts a firm. Legal assistants can improve the responsiveness of a law firm's communications by taking calls, responding to emails, entering data, setting up appointments, using office equipment, onboarding new team members, communicating with lawyers, organising timetables, participating in live chats and introducing clients. Firms can provide a better client-focused experience with the help of legal assistants.
Another task for this role involves analysing, organising and curating information from the clients. A legal assistant may be the first member of the legal team that a client speaks with after scheduling an appointment. Legal assistants can set up appointments for clients and attorneys. They also coordinate and plan meetings and interviews. Having good time management skills helps ensure they keep the lawyer's timetable manageable.
They may also call clients to confirm the appointment, ensure the booking time is convenient and ensure they have all the information needed to attend. They might also ask a few opening questions to help the lawyer prepare for the appointment.
Prepare legal records and documents
The day-to-day duties of a legal assistant include helping prepare the client's case so that the lawyer may concentrate on creating the best legal defence and negotiating with the other party. This entails gathering data that is pertinent to the case, such as insurance information and witness reports, as well as corresponding with other parties, including barristers and the court. This can entail making appointments and getting information from important authorities. Additionally, they help the attorney produce pertinent paperwork and ensure it's ready for important occasions like mediation conferences or meetings.
Legal assistants may also prepare legal document drafts for lawyers so that they're ready for a senior team member to finalise. These may include contracts or agreements. Getting these ready may help lawyers stay well-prepared and well-organised.
Do legal research
A legal assistant may do legal research. They also may create or edit legal documents and correspondence on behalf of an lawyer. Legal research entails identifying and retrieving the necessary information to support lawyers in legal decision-making.
Transcribing and editing
Transcribing and editing legal papers are also typical job duties for a legal assistant. Some of the job's requirements include scanning, copying, organising, filing and faxing legal documents. They may also schedule hearings for court depositions and client meetings.
Billing and accounting
Legal assistants usually track hours for the office. They can support lawyers with billing issues and assist with sending and processing invoices. This helps ensure that lawyers get paid in full for the services they provide.
How to become a legal assistant
Here is a list of steps you can take if you are interested in learning more about how to become a legal assistant:
1. Research the role
Researching the role may help you determine what duties are required of you and whether they align with your skill set. Researching the position can also help you determine if you might enjoy this type of role. For instance, you might find information about particular programs you may take to increase your chances of getting hired for the job.
2. Get training
Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
There are two options one can pursue to become a legal assistant. The first option might be to acquire real-world experience in a comparable position, such as working as a receptionist. You can learn useful abilities in this position that can be useful to you as a legal assistant. You may even start as an intern or receptionist at a law firm and work your way up to a legal assistant role.
The second choice is to enrol in some formal schooling before submitting an application for the position. At TAFE, you might be interested in finishing a Certificate III in Business Administration or a Certificate IV in Legal Services. These kinds of programs are often only open to students who have finished year 10 or higher. They can teach you skills that can prove valuable to a legal assistant role.
3. Gain experience with an internship
While there are no specific qualifications required to become a legal assistant, you may find that employers view certain attributes favourably. You're likely to be more successful when applying for roles if you have some experience. One of the best ways to gain experience is through an internship while studying. If you decide to take on a course at TAFE, enquire about possible internships. An internship can be a great way to earn real-world skills and knowledge. You can also get a better understanding of the work involved and whether it suits you.
4. Apply for the job
Once you've done your research and training, it's time to look for a job. You can search online or apply directly to your preferred law firm. It's a good idea to tailor each cover letter to the specific job for which you're applying. You may also consider preparing some questions to ask at the job interview and write a follow-up email afterwards to show your enthusiasm for the role.
Legal assistant skills
Legal assistants often possess multiple skills and may have qualifications in administrative duties regarding legal operations. Legal assistants often have the following skills:
Personality and interpersonal skills: This is crucial if the legal assistant is handling client interactions.
Adaptability: Legal assistants are responsible for a wide range of activities. They excel at adaptability and have a strong desire to learn.
Writing prowess: Legal assistants possess a strong knowledge of language and writing to assist with document drafting or proofreading.
Organisation: Being organised is essential for many legal assistant jobs, including filing, handling papers and tracking a lawyer's calendar.
Tech-savvy: Prosperous legal firms often embrace automation and technology to streamline their operations.
Confidence: Being confident might encourage others to listen to you and trust what you say. Additionally, it may contribute to a favourable perception of the company and its staff.
Dependability: This means that people can rely on you for assistance without having to remind you or follow up on their requests.
Affability: As assistants deal with a variety of people, being friendly and able to start a discussion can help you interact with everyone professionally.
Attentiveness: Being attentive is necessary to receive calls and texts because it allows you to comprehend what others are saying and clarify their requests by asking follow-up questions.
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