Is there a difference between being a paralegal and a legal secretary? While there are a lot of similarities, it’s essential to know the differences so you can present yourself as the right candidate for the job. Both opportunities should have some knowledge of working in a legal office, and many do some of the same duties, but there are a few important differences. Here are the most significant differences between a paralegal and a legal secretary.
Certified Legal Professionals
The most significant difference between a legal secretary and a paralegal is the experience and education required. Legal secretaries are generally administrative assistants working within legal environments. Paralegals are legal professionals but not lawyers. They’re needed to become certified by the National Association of Legal Assistants. Often, legal secretaries are in the process of becoming certified.
Involvement in Research and Preparation
While there are several ways legal admins and paralegals do the same work in a legal setting, there are some key differences. Paralegals generally have more education and background in the law and will often assist lawyers directly. They can also draft documents and talk with clients, but they cannot provide legal advice or appear in court.
More often, Legal assistants and secretaries will be focused on more of the office function of the job. Typing and transcription are typical duties, along with office organization and calendar management. It can be helpful for someone interested in a legal assistant role to know basic bookkeeping as they will often be tasked with billing clients.
To become a paralegal, completion of a two or four-year college program is just the beginning. The next step is taking and passing the NALA exam or simply using your education to become an uncertified legal assistant. There are some certification courses designed explicitly for paralegals as well. If they have not completed college programs, legal secretaries may also choose to take vocational courses that are typically less than a year.
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