Paralegal or Legal Assistant: What’s the Difference?

The search for information about a legal assistant career can be confusing because many times, the searcher is directed to information about how to become a paralegal. The American Bar Association (ABA) does not distinguish between the paralegal vs. legal assistant positions. The job descriptions are the same, the training is the same and, depending upon the state, the certification requirements are the same. The terms are used interchangeably; however, in Texas paralegal is the term used most often.

Job Responsibilities

The primary focus for paralegals and legal assistants is to help lawyers prepare for hearings, trials, and corporate meetings. Although they may vary depending on the size of the firm and the specific area of law in which they work, a paralegal’s job responsibilities will include:

  • Assisting lawyers during trials by handling exhibits, taking notes, or reviewing trial transcripts
  • Communicating with clients, witnesses, lawyers and outside vendors to schedule interviews, meetings and depositions
  • Conducting research on relevant laws, regulations and legal articles
  • Drafting correspondence and legal documents, such as contracts and mortgages
  • Filing exhibits, briefs, appeals and other legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
  • Gathering and arranging evidence and other legal documents for attorney review and case preparation
  • Investigating the facts of a case
  • Organizing and maintaining documents in paper or electronic filing systems
  • Writing reports to help lawyers prepare for trials
  • Taking affidavits and other formal statements that may be used as evidence in court

Career Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of paralegals is expected to rise by 17% by 2022. In Texas, the mean annual wage is $52,670.

The largest employers of legal assistants are, of course, law firms. As a cost-cutting measure, many companies are choosing to employ an in-house legal department rather than retain outside counsel. BLS estimates that this could lead to an increase in the demand of legal workers in industries such as finance, insurance, consulting and healthcare. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Paralegals and Legal Assistants, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/legal/paralegals-and-legal-assistants.htm)

Interested? Call us for more information!

Arlington Career Institute can provide you with the training you need to begin your legal career with our Paralegal/Legal Assistant program in Dallas/Fort Worth. Graduates can be prepared to sit for the licensing exam in as little as 10 months.

If you would like to know more about the Paralegal program at Arlington Career Institute, call 800-394-5445.

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