Distinctions Between Paralegal and Legal Assistant & their Job profiles

The terms “paralegal” and “legal assistant” have been used interchangeably with good intent. Many legal professionals do similar duties in a law firm, and with not so similar responsibilities but give equally while taking legal decisions.Court & bar associations rules never differentiate between them in terms of their roles for practice.

What Is a Paralegal Assistant?

Defining the term paralegal is tricky as it is widely known as a person who is qualified through education, training or work experience who has abilities to do substantive legal work under the guidance and supervision of an attorney since this is also applies to legal assistants the National Association of Legal Assistants made a distinction between the two roles in 2004. These terms  “paralegal” and “”legal assistant” are commonly misinterpreted while using them interchangeably in this profession but paralegal is used for certified employees.

Duties of Paralegals vs. Legal Assistants

Paralegals and legal assistants generally performs many duties of an attorney where he had not hired such a professional. They mainly do all the legal research, draft pleadings,contracts, leases and other legal documents necessary for court. They also help in trial preparations and aid clients when they’re answering questions.They score well in term of giving legal advice or guiding clients so they’re restricted from those areas. Whereas, they also cannot sign pleadings or any other documents as it is a job of attorneys areas to sign and check.

Legal Secretaries vs. Paralegals and Legal Assistants

In many law firms refer their legal secretaries as legal assistants so they can clearly present it to their clients for these employees’ hours as well payments but the legal secretary’s duties are more limited. Their work may only concentrate in drafting correspondence and organizing files and do word processing, transcribing the attorney’s dictation and following directives for other tasks and also take phone calls but aren’t entrusted with answering client’s questions. More or less they are stuck with deadly drafting work consisting questions in a memo which is passed on to the attorney so he has a full understanding of the client’s concerns. Legal secretaries are up for  appointments and calendar court appearances and events in each case. Many law firms use  “paralegal” and “legal assistant” to avoid confusion with secretarial and other legal support roles.


The first difference between a paralegal and a legal secretary is the level of education that is required. The vast majority of paralegals have at least a college degree. Many schools offer paralegal programs, which are four-year bachelor’s degree programs, in which a person will learn most of the legal basics. Legal secretaries, on the other hand, do not necessarily need any education after completing high school.


One of the main differences between legal secretaries and paralegals is the type of client contact that they have. Legal secretaries have administrative roles, in which they perform administrative tasks for an attorney, such as scheduling meeting, taking messages from clients, and collecting information from clients. Paralegals tend to have a different level of contact with clients. Paralegals are not technically able to provide legal advice to a client, but they are involved in the drafting of loan documents and can help to explain what the loan documents are saying to the clients.


Whenever a lawyer is taking a case to trial, whether it is criminal or civil, a significant amount of preparation has to go into place. Both legal secretaries and paralegals are heavily involved in the preparation for cases. A legal secretary will work to organize working files, organize documents for attorney review, and help to schedule meetings for the attorney and paralegal. A paralegal will be involved in a more detailed role. They can help to perform research on the case, spend time interviewing potential witnesses and parties to the case, and help to prepare arguments and statements that will be given in the courtroom. Once they case comes to trial, the paralegal will be able to provide assistance to the attorney as well.


Another key difference between a legal secretary and a paralegal is the overall compensation. Due the higher amount of education that is required and the type of work that is completed, paralegals tend to earn much more. Most paralegals will make at least $60,000 per year, and those that are in management positions at bigger firms can earn over $100,000 per year. This is compared to legal secretaries who normally will earn closer to $40,000 per year and likely will not have as much potential for future career advancement.


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