Difference between a Paralegal and a Legal Assistant

Difference between a Paralegal and a Legal Assistant

Many people in the country pursue to get a degree in the legal field. But, some of them may not actually dream to become a big lawyer or attend a law school. However, apart from an attorney, there are many other positions that a law firm has to offer. Paralegals and legal assistants are the most common of these. Many people may confuse between these two and think that both these terms are synonyms performing a similar job. In fact, these two are quite separate identities with a lot of significant dissimilarities. In this article, we shall take a look at certain factors that makes them different.

Difference between a Paralegal and a Legal Assistant

1. Education

The level of education is the very first basis that completely differentiates the two identities. Most of the paralegals have at least a college degree. A majority of schools in the country offer paralegal programs and courses, which the students can easily opt for. These courses are four-year bachelor’s degree programs where most of the legal basics are taught to the students. Legal assistants or secretaries on the other hand, may not necessarily require a degree. High school education is enough to become one.

2. Client Contact

The type of client contact that each of the identity handle becomes another major difference between the two. Legal assistants perform almost all administrative roles for the attorney who hires them. These administrative tasks include scheduling meetings with clients, taking messages, and collecting information from them. Talking about paralegals, they have a different level of contact with clients. They can draft loan documents and can explain them to the clients. But, they can’t technically offer legal advice to the clients.

3. Case Preparation

Whether it is a criminal case or a civil case, a lot of time goes into its preparation before it is taken into the courtroom for trials. And it is completely the duty of paralegals and legal assistants to prepare it significantly well. However, their duties again differ completely. A legal assistant organizes the working files, documents for attorney review, and also arrange for the meetings of the attorney and paralegals with the clients. A paralegal, on the other hand, has a more detailed role to perform. He researches on the case, interviews the potential witnesses of the case, prepares arguments and statements that will be provided in the courtroom, etc. Along with all such functions, he will also assist the attorney during the trial of the case in the courtroom.

4. Salaries

The overall compensation paid to a legal assistant and a paralegal becomes another major point of difference between the two. Because paralegals are highly educated and perform better work during the case and its trials, they tend to earn a much higher amount. Their salaries offered by an attorney or law firm can range from $60,000 to $100,000 per year. Whereas the salary of a legal assistant will be comparatively lower. It will be between $40,000 and $50,000 per year.

These were a few of the factors differentiating between a paralegal and legal assistance. Feel free to share more, if you have any in mind.

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