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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