What is a Legal Assistant?
A legal assistant is a term used to describe an individual who assists legal professionals, most commonly qualified lawyers, in their day to day work. In the United States, legal assistants are not authorized by a government body or governmental agency to offer legal services nor are they subject to the government or court sanctioned rules of conduct.
Instead a legal assistant is, in essence, a lawyer’s assistant; a legal assistant will work under the direct supervision of their coordinating legal professional; the legal assistant will provide administrative assistance to streamline the attorney’s day-to-day work.
In the United States, a legal assistant cannot set fees, give legal advice, appear as counsel of record in court or sign pleadings (and other legal or court documents) in a representative fashion. If a legal assistant attempts to fulfill any of these roles, which are distinctly reserved for an attorney or certified legal professional, they will be in direct violation of the unauthorized practice of law statutes that are present in the majority of states in America.
What does a Legal Assistant do?
Legal assistants are responsible for a wide range of tasks within a legal spectrum outside of the practice of law, the delivery of legal advice, and the representation of clientele. The position of a legal assistant will require the individual to work in tandem with attorneys in order to provide the most comprehensive service to their respective clientele.
All legal assistants aid their respective attorney or legal professional in their day to day responsibilities; in essence, the legal assistant will streamline his or her attorney’s work to provide an efficient legal service to the coordinating clientele. Legal assistants may assist, research, and participate in legal processes and procedures; however, they are not permitted to provide legal advice.
A legal assistant may provide his or her coordinating attorney or legal professional with case research; this fundamental duty of a legal assistant requires the individual to research pertinent laws or legal stipulations regarding the underlying legal case. In this capacity, the legal assistant accesses case files or law libraries to provide his or her coordinating attorney with all the necessary facts to initiate a legal argument.
In addition, a legal assistant will interview clients to decide which cases are worth pursuing. A legal assistant will also provide a lawyer or legal professional with various administrative duties, such as scheduling appointments, organizing the attorney’s schedule or setting-up meetings with the attorney. As a result of these duties, it can be stated that without the aid of a legal assistant, a lawyer or legal professional would be disheveled and would not be able to properly provide legal aid to their respective client base.