What is a Certified Legal Assistant?

Certified Legal AssistantA certified legal assistant, also known as CLA, is a certified paralegal. The main difference between the two job titles is that a paralegal can seek employment without gaining certification, but a CLA must pass a certification test called the Certified Paralegal Exam. They usually need to take additional classes after earning their degree, and they also need to apply for recertification every few years. If this career path interests you, make sure that you understand the duties of a CLA and what you need to do before working in the legal field.

They Have Education

The American Bar Association is responsible for accrediting colleges across the country that offer paralegal and legal studies programs. Those working as CLAs have an associate’s degree from one of these accredited schools, but some have a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies. You may be eligible to take the certification exam with a degree in another field, but you need to show that you took a certain number of paralegal and legal assisting classes first. Students must also take at least one class on legal ethics before sitting for that exam.

Assistants Have Certification

Before you can work as a certified legal assistant, you need to pass the certification test. This exam takes place three times a year, and you can only take the exam after registering and paying a fee. Several states in the country have other tests that paralegals must take before working in the field. Depending on the state, you may need to take the state test in addition to the national test or just the state test. The exam tests your knowledge on six different areas of law, including communications, judgment, analytics and legal research.

Duties of a Legal Assistant

Legal assistants perform a number of tasks and duties designed to put less strain on attorneys. When a client comes in for an initial consultation, paralegals will usually meet with them first, take down notes about their case and pass along the information to the attorney. They also do a high level of research. After a lawyer takes a case, the paralegals will go over state laws, statues and similar cases to find information that the lawyer can use in the courtroom. Paralegals may also do certain administrative tasks around the office, including responding to clients via email or over the phone and filing and keeping track of files and documents.

Job Salary and Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for paralegals and legal assistants is $46,990, which is equal to $22.59 per hour. The outlook for legal assistants, according to the BLS is high. The government agency believes that it will experience a rate of growth of 17 percent. Not only is this higher than the national average, but is represents the addition of more than 46,000 paralegal jobs. This field will grow at a faster rate than the rate reported among lawyers and other legal professions.

Working as a CLA lets you see what happens behind the scenes of a courtroom and legal proceedings. You’ll work closely to ensure that the attorney is prepared for an upcoming case, and you’ll have the opportunity to meet and work with clients on your own. You’ll need to go to college and take a certificate test before you can work as a certified legal assistant.