Have you ever thought about a career in law? If so, there are several rewarding careers in law for those who don’t necessarily want to be lawyers. Two common options are working as a paralegal or as a legal assistant. In this short blog, we will glance over the main differences between the two for a clearer understanding of this in demand field.
Paralegals do everything from conducting research on laws and cases to drafting legal documents and compiling evidence for use in court. Furthermore, they help lawyers get ready for trial by writing reports, demonstrating exhibits and filing appeals with the opposing counsel. Because of their extensive work on cases, paralegals are able to bill clients for their work, whereas legal assistants cannot. In addition, paralegals can specialize in certain areas such as criminal law, family law, real estate law and immigration law. Depending on the area in which they choose to work, their duties will vary.
On the other hand, the term “legal assistant” is sometimes thrown out interchangeably with several titles, including administrative assistant, legal secretary and even paralegal. For a more comprehensive comparison, we will be using the definition of a legal assistant vs. paralegals, as there are more distinct differences between the two.
Legal assistants perform more administrative tasks than paralegals. They are preparing legal documents, answering phones, using scheduling software to keep track of appointments and other secretarial duties. In addition, they may prepare legal complaints, motions, summonses and subpoenas. Furthermore, they may also conduct research, review legal publications and verify citations or quotes. Overall, there is a slight overlap in skills, but there are different specialized tasks for each position.
In general, legal administrative assistants and secretaries distribute or respond to routine emails and letters, as well as, oversee electronic and paper-based files and records. As an assistant, you typically maintain and organize schedules for appointments, meetings, and cases for lawyers. As such, the administrative assistant must possess superior organization skills and be comfortable with calendar and scheduling software.
Legal assistants perform a variety of secretarial and administrative duties in law offices, legal departments of large firms, real estate companies, land title offices, municipal, provincial and federal courts and government. If you are interested in anything to do with these fields, then becoming a legal assistant could be the career choice for you. And, Windsor-Essex and South-Western Ontario is the place to be for in demand jobs in this legal career.
As a result of Ontario’s new regulations, paralegals who want to practice independently must be licensed in order to work in the province. To become licensed, a paralegal must complete an accredited paralegal program in addition to passing a licensing exam. Then, they must apply to The Law Society of Upper Canada for licensing. Completion of all these steps takes time, and might not be ideal for students who are passionate about law, but might not want to spend several years as a student. In contrast, legal assistant training does not involve the lengthy process mentioned above. Instead, you train to be familiar with legal terms and organizational skills, but your total length of schooling is significantly reduced.
The legal administrative assistant often manages the day-to-day running of the office. They should obviously be fluent in a variety of office software, including word processing and spreadsheet work (MOS). Depending on the firm, prior experience as an administrative assistant could be required based on the high volume of correspondence and document drafting required by the position. Below we outline some differences in skill between a paralegal and an administrative assistant.
As you can see, paralegals are more involved with the actual technicalities of the law, whereas legal assistants undertake broader tasks. If you are looking for a more hands-on law career, becoming a paralegal may interest you more. However, becoming a legal assistant first could be a great way to find out if you enjoy working in the field before committing to school.
Does a career in law interest you? At Canadian College you’ll gain hands-on practical experience throughout the Legal Administrative Assistant program. Your instructors are experts in their field who actively work in their profession. They bring in real life examples of how to apply the theory you are learning in each class.
Throughout the Legal Administrative Assistant program, you will learn:
Your goal of going to school is to prepare for a career that you love and can enjoy for years to come. The hardest part of graduating is finding your first position in your new career. The Canadian College of Health, Science and Technology is there for you to get you going in the right direction. The college has a dedicated Career Services department which offers:
The college acts as a hub connecting you to a variety of employment resources in Windsor to help move you from student to professional.