Legal Research Assistant: Job Duties, Career Outlook, and Education Prerequisites
Legal research assistants help lawyers prepare for court cases by conducting relevant research. To learn more about job duties, career outlook and educational requirements, read on. Schools offering Legal Studies degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
What Are My Job Duties as a Legal Research Assistant?
As a legal research assistant, you use library and Internet resources to discover and confirm information relevant to court cases, hearings, depositions and legal meetings. You may also perform related administrative duties, such as preparing official legal documents and maintaining records. Most of your time is spent working in a law office or library. You may work a standard 40-hour week if employed by corporate and government entities, but law firms may require you to work longer hours in order to meet their deadlines.
How Is My Career Outlook?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that job opportunities for paralegals and legal assistants would increase by 28% over the 2008-2018 decade (www.bls.gov). This highly favorable employment growth for your profession may be due to employers seeking to lower costs by delegating tasks once performed by lawyers to you. Despite this favorable growth, you may still have to compete as many qualified individuals contend for available positions. Most legal research assistant positions are offered through private law firms, and the BLS reported that your average yearly salary would have been $49,640 as of May 2010.
What Are My Education Prerequisites?
There are several ways for you to become a legal research assistant. Some law firms may be willing to hire you and provide on-the-job training. However, you may improve you job prospects by completing an associate's degree program in paralegal studies at a community college. Your areas of study may include legal terminology, research techniques, ethics, trial procedures, communication and legal writing. If you already hold a college degree in another discipline, you can complete a certificate program in paralegal studies in 1-2 semesters.
Regardless of the training route that you take, you may want to make sure that your program is accredited by the American Bar Association, since that can give you an edge with potential employers. Upon graduation from a paralegal studies program, you may be eligible to take the National Association of Legal Assistants paralegal certification exam. After successfully passing the exam, you can maintain your certified paralegal certification by meeting 50 hours of continuing-education requirements over a period of five years (www.nala.org).
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