What’s the Difference Between Legal Assistant and Paralegal?

The big question many want know is: What’s the Difference Between Legal Assistant and Paralegal? Here in this article, we’re going to discuss the major differences between paralegals and legal assistants. The different scopes of their duties, salaries, education, etc…

The Major Differences Between Legal Assistant and Paralegal

Ideally, the legal filed presents a rather exciting career possibility since it is a diverse filed that contains quite a number of legal positions, including legal assistant as well as paralegals. For the longest time, both legal assistants and paralegals have been used interchangeably to mean the same thing within the legal filed. Nonetheless, today, the two refer to different professions as their duties, educational background, involvement with preparations, and financial compensations vary from one to the other.

The Difference Between Legal Assistant and Paralegal

Ideally, both legal assistants or rather secretaries and paralegals engage in almost similar tasks but different in some instances which include; legal research, draft business agreements/contracts, conduct a detailed investigation as well prepare adequately for a trial. Some of the differences between paralegals and legal assistants incorporate:

Educational Background

  • Paralegals: This is one of the major distinguishing factors between legal assistants and paralegals. Ideally, a paralegal is the minimum educational level that paralegals are required to have so as to practice paralegals, and that is an associate degree in paralegals. Nonetheless, employers, today are leaning on employing paralegals with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in paralegal that is in an entry position.
  • Legal Assistants: On the other hand, legal assistants or rather legal secretaries require more additional education background. For instance, they are expected to have a high school diploma or even GED; they are expected to be conversant with computers. They are also required to have an additional degree in any organizational skills. The rest of the skills are normally acquired on the job for the purposes of administrative activities. It has been proved that approximately 41% of all legal secretaries only require a high school diploma to become practitioners.



  • Paralegals: Normally, paralegals are most of the times thought of as the attorney’s assistants, and this is due to the duties they conduct. Some of the outstanding duties that they engage in incorporate, legal research, drafting legal documents as well as compiling evidence ahead of a trial. They also help their attorneys to make better preparations ahead of a trial including; preparing reports, filing appeals, demonstrating exhibits as well as preparing witnesses. Paralegals also meet up with clients in case the lawyer is held up and purposely to read as well explain legal documents to the client; however, they do not give any pieces of advice to the client. In some instances, paralegals can also bill their clients for work done. Further, paralegals can also decide to specialize in a specific area for instance in criminal law, real estate law, family law among others and depending with the area they will choose, their duties will definitely vary as they vary from one case to the other.
  • Legal Secretaries: On the other hand, for legal assistants, they are more into administrative and organization work. They are normally responsible for arranging as well as organizing files that the lawyer and the paralegal use. They also help with matters filling, scheduling meetings with clients, updating the lawyer, and the paralegal in regards to time as well meetings. In other words, legal secretaries are responsible for making things run in a more organized and systematic manner in the office, that is; in the presence and absence of attorney and the paralegal.

Required Skills:

In order to have a better understanding of the difference between paralegals and legal secretaries, it’s quite important to understand the types of skills required by each profession.

  • Paralegal: For paralegals, they are expected to be familiar with litigation; that is, they should have a greater understanding of the entire lawsuit process. They are also expected to have effective skills on legal documentation, legal research as well as legal document composition. They are also expected to have some computer skills, but this is normally a common skill that cuts across all fields despite their specialty.
  • Legal Assistant (Secretaries): On the other hand, legal secretaries are expected to be familiar with administrative support skills which are very vital as one of their major duties is to get things running at the office. They should have high organization skills as they are expected to do a lot of filling, secretarial skills, legal support skills as well as data entry skills among other administrative and organization skills.


Involvement with Case Preparations

Normally, when it comes to case preparation, it’s normally a team effort in the sense that both paralegals and legal secretaries work together to make the case a success, however, they both have different tasks to attend to during the case preparations.

  • Paralegals: For paralegals, they will be associated with the case preparation. For instance, they are expected to conduct detailed law research on the case so as to explore any avenue which might increase their chances of winning the case. They are also expected to secure any form related to the case, such as the affidavit form or any other crucial form to avoid inconveniences. During the court proceedings, paralegals need to make themselves available so as to help their attorneys when need be.
  • Legal Assistant (Secretaries): On the other hand, legal secretaries help organize as well as avail any required files, so as to facilitate a smooth review as well preparation of the case. They are also responsible for setting up meetings with clients. Collectively, they are responsible for ensuring all required administrative and organization duties are performed effectively to facilitate the preparation of the case.

Financial Compensation (Salaries)

Its no secretes that working in the legal field as either a paralegal or a legal assistant can grant you a reputable image; nonetheless, when it comes to financial compensation, the line of distinction I drew. Again, the roles as well qualification for each profession varies and for that, its rather apparent that even the financial compensation should ultimately vary.

  • Paralegals: For paralegals, in relation to the kind of case as well client they work with, they are expected to bring around $ 100,000 on average.
  • Legal Assistants: In the same manner, depending on the client as well as case they are working on, they can make up to $ 40,000 on average.



Conclusively, its rather apparent that they are a great difference between paralegals and legal secretaries despite the fact that they were traditionally used interchangeably to mean the same thing. Bottom line the two are relatable to each other since their major role is to work in handy to help their attorney win the case in hand.

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