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What It Means to Be a Legal Assistant

If you are planning to go to law school, people have probably warned you to prepare for the “attorney lifestyle” before you become fully committed. Many recommend working at a law firm before embarking on the journey to achieving your J.D. to make sure it truly is the career path you desire. I personally heard this a lot over the years and considering how I graduated college and still had zero experience in the field, I thought it was time to try it out.

I am 90-days into my position as a legal assistant, and these past three months have personally redefined what working at a law firm fully entails. When hired for the position, I had no idea what being a legal assistant meant other than maybe grabbing attorneys’ coffees and answering phone calls. Every law firm has different expectations and job descriptions for their assistants; here at Morris Law Center, we are given a lot of responsibility and are taught how to handle cases just as an attorney would. To help demonstrate those responsibilities, below is a list of a few typical assignments you may be assigned as a legal assistant:

  1. Formatting Documents – There is an abundance of different types of legal documents that could be filed for a case. As the assistant, your job would be to format the document by customizing it to your firm’s specific headers and labels, adding the relevant information for the case: case number, court location, attorneys assigned, etc., and overall adding any information you possibly can to make drafting the document easier for the attorneys. This will challenge your care for detail and precision skills when it comes down to working on just about anything: documents, emails, calendaring, letters, and more.
  2. Filing Through the Court – Once the documents are drafted and finalized for formatting and other possible errors, your job is to file or serve the document (depending on what it is). Most of the time, this can be done through the courts’ online filing system. Other times, documents might need to be mailed, emailed, or dropped off by a runner. Doing this helps familiarize yourself with how each court within your jurisdiction works, and overall allow you to learn the ins and outs of courtroom procedures for all types of cases.
  3. Client Correspondence – Whether it is taking phone calls for potential clients, sending email updates to current clients, or writing letters to just about anyone, a legal assistant must ensure that clients are kept up to date and all their questions are answered. Professionalism is key when working in a law firm, and this will strengthen your communication skills whether taking phone calls or composing professional emails.
  4. The Calendar – This is probably the single most important task for a legal assistant. It is our job to ensure that all deadlines for every case are calculated and calendared with all the relevant information, and attorneys are reminded of any upcoming hearings, due dates, meetings, etc. This task alone will allow you to develop the organizational skills and responsibilities necessary for becoming an attorney.
  5. Managing Attorneys – Basically, the overall role of a legal assistant is making the attorneys’ lives as easy as possible. Whether that is sending them general updates on cases or reminding them of details that are easily forgotten. Attorneys have a ton of weight on their shoulders, so ultimately, the more you can help carry, the more success you will have with not only your position, but your future ability to prioritize and mange multiple tasks at once.

There are numerous responsibilities and details specific to each case that a legal assistant can be assigned to. That is what makes the experience at a law firm so specific and hard to fully encompass. It varies greatly on an individual basis, but overall, one guarantee is that you will learn something new almost every single day.

You will either love the work you do, or realize the legal world is definitely not the right fit for you. Regardless, there is no doubt that being a legal assistant will prepare you more than you would ever expect, for not only law school, but for your future career as an attorney.

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