Nowadays, the terms paralegal, legal secretary, and legal assistant are often used interchangeably. However, they differ slightly. A legal assistant is the same as a paralegal. However, the two terms refer to something different than a legal secretary.
A legal secretary is basically an administrative assistant. He or she is normally tasked with performing clerical work around the office. This includes typing up documents, scheduling appointments, and taking phone calls from clients. However, it is possible that a legal secretary with plenty of experience can perform some of the tasks done by a paralegal or legal assistant.
A legal assistant, or paralegal, performs many tasks with help from an actual lawyer. This includes preparing material for trial and drawing up contracts. As a part of the paralegal job description he will also perform a lot of research and writing for lawyers.
A secretary doesn’t need any formal experience or education. However, in order to become a paralegal, you will usually need to receive formal education or training. Many programs require that you complete an associate’s or bachelor’s degree before you obtain your paralegal certification or degree.
This isn’t always the case though. Some employers allow you to train on-the-job to become a legal assistant. You would basically take on the role of a legal secretary until you gain enough experience to perform the more advanced tasks.
One of the next main differences between a paralegal and a legal secretary is in the salary. Although both jobs are essential in effective operation of a law office, legal assistants make more than secretaries. Paralegals typically work on a salary while secretaries are usually paid on an hourly basis.
Legal secretaries can’t exist without a lawyer. In most cases, paralegals can’t work unless under the guidance of a lawyer. However, in some areas, laws and regulations allow paralegals to perform certain law tasks normally reserved for lawyers.
Becoming a legal secretary isn’t a dead-end job by any means. As mentioned earlier, secretaries can sometimes perform some of the same tasks as an assistant. After gaining experience, the secretary can easily become a paralegal and assume a higher title and salary as a benefit.
Although the terms are often used interchangeably nowadays, there is a difference between legal secretaries and assistants. Legal assistants or paralegals require formal education or training in most cases if they aren’t trained on-the-job. They perform many law-related duties that directly benefit lawyers. Secretaries on the other hand usually do clerical work like typing up documents, answering phone calls, and scheduling meetings.