Legal Assistant job “may lead to career as a Paralegal, Solicitor or Barrister”, says ILSPA
The Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs (ILSPA) has published information about the job of Legal Assistant within the legal profession.
Published online in ILSPA’s Legal Secretary Journal, the article examines the role of a Legal Assistant and the professional requirements of the job, including having sound knowledge of legal terms, procedures and documentation.
“Legal Assistants may work with a single lawyer, a specific practice or a group of lawyers depending on the firm, or the size of an individual case,” says ILSPA.
Preparation of legal documents by Legal Assistants may include complaints, responses, subpoenas, summonses and wills, generally carried out under the guidance of a lawyer or the manager of a law firm.
Legal Assistants also archive and organise legal files and supporting documents, as well as communicating with clients, informing them of how the case is progressing or if any further documentation is required. The role may also involve conducting research and collating information to help strengthen a case for a lawyer, making sure everyone involved in a case or legal matter is kept up to date.
Legal assistants will also be required to verify information on request – as well as scheduling meetings and providing support during a trial, including “cross-checking facts, preparing the correct documents, assembling relevant artefacts, collecting evidence and keeping track of case developments”.
The job of Legal Assistant will also involve taking notes and studying case law, providing briefs on request.
The skills need for a career as a Legal Assistant including research skills, plus strong administration and organisational skills, ILSPA advises. Good legal knowledge is also required – and candidates must show attention to detail, plus analytical skills and the ability to identify trends and patterns.
Legal assistants must also be comfortable working as part of a team – often in a busy environment – and must adhere to client confidentiality protocol. A strong work ethic is also necessary, with the ability to meet deadlines, plus good computer skills.
ILSPA says that previous experience working as a secretary “is extremely advantageous”, as many of the skills needed to be a secretary can be applied to law, providing a person has sufficient legal knowledge.
“Having a legal secretarial qualification is also very beneficial – a candidate’s employability is greatly improved by completing certificates and diplomas, such as those provided by ILSPA, especially if they do not have previous experience.”
However, a university degree is not necessary – although law firms generally will require a candidate for the job of Legal Assistant to have obtained at least five GCSEs at Grade C or above, including English language.
The average starting salary for a Legal Assistant is £18,000 a year but with experience and progression, salaries can reach as high as £45,000 a year.
“Working as a Legal Assistant opens up great opportunities for progression,” advises ILSPA.
“One route of progression is to become a Legal Personal Assistant (PA). Becoming a Legal PA can lead to a more lucrative salary and the opportunity to work on a more interesting range of cases.
“Personal Assistants tend to work for a single lawyer and are the main point of contact for clients. These roles have much more responsibility and PAs sometimes make key decisions on behalf of their boss and have input on areas such as accounts and budgeting. This role requires a high level of organisation skills and can involve working unsociable hours.”
Assistants can also be promoted to Senior Secretary – or with further qualifications they could become a Paralegal, Licensed Conveyancer or Legal Executive. Experience as a legal Assistant may also open the door to becoming a Solicitor or Barrister with further study, says ILSPA.
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