Paralegal in office with law book and computer

What Do Paralegals and Legal Assistants Do?

The world of law can be scary and confusing. When most people think of going into law, they imagine taking the LSAT, the Bar Exam, and becoming a high-powered attorney. However, there are many other careers in law that don’t require the time and money that are necessary to become a lawyer. Two of these careers are paralegals and legal assistants. These “law support” careers serve essential functions in law offices around the country. You can become certified and start your career as a paralegal or legal assistant in under a year! But what do paralegals and legal assistants do? Keep reading to learn the answer to this question and many more.

What are Paralegals and Legal Assistants?

Paralegals and legal assistants are, as noted above, professionals that support lawyers in many ways. They act as the boots on the ground for lawyers, researching cases, scheduling meetings, entering data, creating legal documentation, and more. While these careers sound similar, they actually have quite different focuses.

Paralegals can be thought of as lawyer’s assistants. They do things like researching laws, drafting legal documents, and compiling evidence to be used in court. Their focus is on every aspect of a case, from trials to appeals with the opposing counsel. Paralegals, like lawyers, are able to specialize in certain areas of law, such as criminal law, family law, real estate law, and more. Because of this focus and their extensive work on cases, many paralegals are able to bill clients for their work, something legal assistants cannot do.

Legal assistants act in a more administrative manor. While their work doesn’t get them as deeply involved in cases, it is still essential to any law office. Legal assistants are the people who answer phones, schedule meetings, keep track of appointments, and prepare certain legal documents such as subpoenas. This career lets you work in law without having to get too invested in individual cases and clients. Many paralegals are former legal assistants, and used their time as a legal assistant to gain the experience needed to become a fully-fledged paralegal.

How Much Money Do Paralegals and Legal Assistants Make?

This is the biggest question most people have about any career they are interested in because it’s important. How much money do paralegals and legal assistants make? This can be tough to answer. As we explained in the section above, these are two fairly distinct careers. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) groups them together as one occupation. So, while we are unable to provide data for these careers individually, we can look at the overall stats.

The BLS gathers occupational stats on a national and state level, and they say the average legal assistant or paralegal in South Carolina makes $46,690. However, the top 75th percentile can make $67,080 or more! This shows that these two careers have a ton of room for growth, probably depending on how long you’ve worked in your respective field. For career paths that only require a few semesters of training, legal assistants and paralegals have the capacity to earn great money!

How Do You Become a Paralegal or Legal Assistant?

Getting started in these law-related careers is not difficult! You can start working as a legal assistant with as little as a Microsoft Office Applications Certificate, which only takes two semesters to complete. If you start working for a good firm, they may help you get your paralegal degree, which is only a few more semesters of schooling. You might even be able to earn this degree while working for your dream law firm. If you’re interested in starting a career as a paralegal or legal assistant, you can contact us by clicking “Get Started.”  We will get you in touch with an admissions specialist at York Technical College in Rock Hill, SC who can help you assess your career goals and determine whether York Tech is right for you.

Paralegals and legal assistants are related careers that each have their own specialties. Sometimes paralegals start their careers as legal assistants before developing their legal knowledge and skills. Whatever your end career goals, you can get started today at York Technical College. York Tech is the top technical college in upstate South Carolina for motivated individuals who want to get into a rewarding career! Click the button below to get started.