What is the Difference Between a Paralegal and a Legal Assistant?

 Pursuing a degree in the legal field is a dream for many people. While many of these people may not want to go to law school or become a lawyer, there are many other positions that are available in law firms across the country. Two of the most common professions, other than lawyers, that are hired by law firms are paralegals and legal secretaries. While many people may feel that paralegals and legal secretaries are very similar jobs, there are actually many significant differences.


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.

Client Contact

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.

Case Preparation

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.


In conclusion, two of the most commonly hired positions at law firms are paralegals and legal secretaries. While most people believe that these two positions are very similar, there are actually many differences between the two jobs and what it takes to become one.
Take a look at the world of a paralegal at “PARALEGAL SUPERSTARS: UNSUNG HEROES OF THE LEGAL WORLD“.