Becoming a law office assistant typically requires either an associate's or a bachelor's degree, and some employers may prefer candidates who have certification from an accredited paralegal association. The top industries that hire paralegals include government, finance and legal services.
Law office assistants, also known as paralegals or legal assistants, assist attorneys with the legal work needed to bring a case to court. Paralegals perform many of the same tasks as the attorneys who supervise them; however, they cannot give any legal advice, represent clients in court or sign legal documents. An associate's or bachelor's degree is usually required. Professional certification may be needed for assistants who earned a bachelor's in a different field.
|Required Education||Associate's or bachelor's degree|
|Other Requirements||Certification sometimes required|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||8% for all paralegals and legal assistants|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$48,810 annually for all paralegals and legal assistants|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
The role of paralegals varies depending on the case and the jobs they are assigned. Some common job duties include:
- Researching facts of the case
- Interviewing witnesses
- Conducting legal research
- Preparing written reports
- Obtaining legal documents such as affidavits
- Summarizing court testimony
The most common form of paralegal studies is an associate's or a bachelor's degree from an accredited college. Some schools may offer in-depth certificate programs for those who are looking to become paralegals and already have a bachelor's degree in another field or are or are working towards a college degree.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are 260 paralegal programs approved by the American Bar Association (www.bls.gov). While employers do not require study or certification from these programs, it may enhance employment opportunity. Two of the largest paralegal associations to offer certification programs are:
- The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA)
- National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA)
The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA)
NALA requires a combination of education and experience. Those who qualify can take a two-day exam towards NALA certification that is good for five years. After the fifth year, 50 hours of continuing education is necessary in order to be certified again.
National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA)
In order to qualify for certification, applicants need a bachelor's degree and two years of paralegal experience. Re-certification is required every two years with 12 hours of continuing education.
Admission requirements for other programs can vary. It is best to contact the specific program of interest regarding admissions.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
In 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) revealed an annual median salary of $48,810 for legal assistants and paralegals. The BLS also projected 8% employment growth for these professionals from 2014-2024, which was faster than the average for all occupations at that time.
On-the-job duties of a law office assistant vary depending on the case and employer. Some of the most common responsibilities are research, preparing reports and interviewing witnesses, so well-rounded professional skills are essential in this career.