What is the difference between a Legal Assistant and a Legal Secretary?

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The difference between a Legal Assistant and a Legal Secretary is seniority and scope of responsibilities. For example, Legal Assistants usually hold an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree in an area like paralegal studies or pre-law. Due to their legal education, Legal Assistants complete various tasks like interviewing witnesses, writing legal documents and supporting Lawyers in the courtroom in addition to more clerical or administrative tasks.

In contrast, Legal Secretaries need at least a high school diploma or GED and should be at least 18 or 21 years old depending on state guidelines for the position. They solely perform clerical tasks like answering phone calls, greeting office visitors, scheduling appointments and making photocopies. In smaller law firms, Legal Assistants may perform the job duties of a Legal Secretary.

What are the daily duties of a Legal Assistant?

On a typical day, a Legal Assistant checks their email and voicemail to respond to messages from witnesses, court employees or clients. They coordinate with Lawyers to make updates to their appointment schedule and assist Lawyers in conducting witness interviews. Legal Assistants also run errands on behalf of Lawyers to obtain court records, police reports and other documentation to aid in their case. They may spend the day in court, helping Lawyers set-up slideshow presentations and organizing documents to review throughout the hearing or trial.

What qualities make a good Legal Assistant?

A good Legal Assistant enjoys working as a part of a team. This quality ensures that they fulfill their supportive role to Lawyers and the rest of the legal team. They have excellent written and verbal communication that enables them to compose legal documents and communicate between Lawyers and their clients. They also have great interpersonal communication which allows them to speak with a variety of different people including lawyers, clients, witnesses, judges or court employees.

Further, a good Legal Assistant has an investigative mindset that motivates them to analyze police reports, bank records and other documents to help build a case against the defendant.

 

Who does a Legal Assistant report to?

A Legal Assistant usually reports directly to one or more Lawyers or Attorneys at their law firm. Legal Assistants can also report to Judges and other judicial personnel who work at courthouses.