Legal assistants, also referred to as paralegals and legal aides, support lawyers in their work. Although most paralegals are trained in law and in legal research methods, they are not allowed to set legal fees, appear in a court of law as a person's representative, provide legal advice, or sign any court document as a legal representative.
A typical legal assistant's work will be made up of tasks geared towards supporting lawyers in their day-to-day work. In most cases, a legal assistant will specialise in a particular niche such as environmental law, insurance, family law, litigation or any other specialisation.
Work as a legal assistant is seen as excellent preparation and experience for an aspiring lawyer before being accepted onto a training contract or a pupillage.
Legal assistants will carry out legal research, draft legal documents and letters, help with case preparation and investigation, interview the witnesses and take statements ensuring important information is passed on as well as other administrative and secretarial duties. Often, legal assistants see clients before solicitors do. Their role is to interview the client and any witnesses first so that important information can be passed onto the solicitor regarding the case.
Key skills include:
- Exceptional writing and research skills and able to deal with large amounts of information.
- Attention to detail
- Organisational skills
- Computer literacy
- Able to work independently and follow instructions
- Able to work under pressure
- Knowledge and/or qualifications of law practice
- Good administrative and secretarial skills/experience