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A Legal Assistant can also be called a Paralegal, interchangeably, in the legal profession. The term arose in the 1960's when lawyers needed a way to streamline their work for a client in a more efficient and cost saving manner. The need for well-trained Legal Assistants continues to grow and the training for an assistant can take several years according to the guidelines of the CLA (Certified Legal Assistants). The salaries run inline with the level of training and experience.
The work of the Legal Assistant is very important to an Attorney. Here are some of the valuable duties a Legal Assistant performs:
Interview Clients for the attorney. The clients must be well-informed of the title, Legal Assistant, and be aware that the assistant works under the supervision of the attorney.
Find witnesses and do the interviews.
Carry on an investigation and perform research of a statistical and documentary nature.
Perform legal research.
Create the legal documents for the attorney such as letters of correspondence and pleadings to the court.
Prepare documentation summaries of interrogations, testimonies and depositions.
Create and sign correspondence assuring the Legal Assistant title is clearly indicated and the document does not contain independent legal opinions or legal advice.
Be present with the attorney at real estate closings, depositions, court or trials.
The time of a Legal Assistant doing substantial legal work (as compared to administrative work) is billed to clients, as an attorney's time, at a lower hourly rate.
The qualifications for a Legal Assistant are set by the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA). There are several ways to obtain training before passing the certification exam for Legal Assistants or Paralegals. Here is the list of requirements used in determining qualifications of a Legal Assistant:
Pass the Certified Legal Assistants Exam given by the NALA.
Obtain a BA degree in any subject and do 6 months in-house training as a Legal Assistant.
Study and graduate in an ABA approved program for Legal Assistants.
Graduate from a Legal Assistant training program, institutionally certified, with no less than 60 hours of classroom training.
Graduation from a secondary training course as a Legal Assistant and 6 months in-house training.
Three years of law-related experience supervised by an attorney, and at least six months of in-house training.
Two years of in-house training as a Legal Assistant.
There are several choices a person can make to get his education in the field, from a certified training program or associate degree all the way to a Bachelors or Masters Degree. The pay scale starts at $34K and can move up to $46K with experience. The job growth in this field is above average for the next 10 years. There is stability for Legal Assistants in the years to come.
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