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The Difference Between Paralegal and Legal Secretary

Paralegals and legal secretaries are both essential roles in a law firm. But many people do not know what the difference is between a paralegal and a legal secretary. While some duties may overlap and job descriptions may vary by location, there are some key differences when distinguishing between paralegal vs. legal assistant.

What Is a Legal Secretary?

Legal secretaries perform essential administrative duties for most law offices. These duties may include transcribing reports, filing and organizing, general office duties, customer service, and assisting lawyers and paralegals as needed. Often, legal secretaries report to and get tasks from lawyers and paralegals.

If you're deciding to become a legal secretary or paralegal, keep in mind that many people with paralegal training start off as legal secretaries. This provides them with more experience in a legal setting. Because they typically have fewer responsibilities than a paralegal, legal secretaries usually make lower salaries.

What Is a Paralegal?

In general, paralegals have more training than legal secretaries and have a better understanding of legal terms and theory. While legal secretaries handle more administrative tasks in cases, paralegals will often handle more legal tasks and will report directly to the lawyer.

Some paralegal duties may include interviewing people involved in the case, preparing case summaries, research and documentation of cases, and general case management. Depending on the size of the firm, some paralegals may also take on administrative and management duties.

While paralegals perform more legal duties than a legal secretary, they are still considered a non-attorney and cannot perform certain tasks. For example, they can't give out legal advice or represent a client in court, but they can assist an attorney in court.

Another difference between paralegals and legal secretaries is that there are usually fewer paralegals per firm than legal secretaries. Paralegals also tend to work more independently, whereas legal secretaries have more supervision.

While serving very different functions, paralegals and legal secretaries work very closely together and often rely on each other. Both paralegals and legal secretaries play important roles in any law firm.

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