Published on May 16, 2019 by lauraduckett

Legal secretaries and paralegals are essential additions to any law firm. Both roles provide support for lawyers with preparing cases and general administrative work. But what’s the difference between a paralegal and a legal assistant? This article will tackle that question and provide you with an insight into the similarities and differences between a legal secretary and a paralegal.

What’s the Difference Between Paralegal and a Legal Assistant?: Responsibilities

Legal Secretary

Legal secretaries work in law firms to carry out administrative duties for lawyers. Daily tasks include performing research,  transcribing interviews, preparing court forms and diary organisation. They also attend court and more generally keep the office running smoothly. 


Paralegals are more involved in preparing cases, arguments and research for lawyers to present to clients. Their work encompasses more legal aspects than the work of legal secretaries. Paralegals are also required to interview witnesses and draft documents in layman’s terms so that clients can understand them more easily.

Read our free guide: What is a Paralegal? >>


Legal Secretary

To be a legal secretary, a C in GCSE English is needed. However, a college course in law or IT will give applicants the upper hand when trying to land this job. The CILEx Legal Secretary training course will be an advantage for individuals looking to apply to be a legal secretary because it provides essential training and procedures in both administrative, computing and secretarial skills needed to support law firms in a business environment.


Paralegals need an undergraduate degree in order to be eligible for the job. It doesn’t need to be a law degree but it’s advantageous to have one. Individuals can pursue the Postgraduate paralegal diploma to excel further and make themselves more appealing to law firms.

The pros and cons of being a paralegal

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Skills Needed

The skills needed for both careers are very similar due to the nature of the work they entail. Attention to detail and administrative skills, for example, are essential in order for individuals to thrive in both jobs.

Legal Secretary

  • IT Literacy: You’ll have to be able to manage documents such as wills and schedule court dates using a computer.
  • Organisation: You’ll have to schedule meetings and arrangements with witnesses and clients.
  • Time management: You will help lawyers manage their agendas on a daily basis.
  • Interpersonal: You will most likely be the first point of contact for communication between the law firm and clients.


  • Research skills: You are expected to research analytically and produce written content.  
  • Business acumen: You will need a good understanding of the legal system as well as commercial awareness in order to be able to advise and support lawyers. 
  • Teamwork: You have to liaise with other paralegals and lawyers in other departments at the law firm.

Law Work Experience: Free Guide>>

Career Prospects

Legal Secretary

There are plenty of job openings for legal secretaries nowadays. Individuals can also pursue the legal secretary career as a way into a career as a paralegal.


Paralegals usually seek solicitor training contracts in the law firm they currently are employed in. Becoming a paralegal before becoming a trainee is a huge advantage as candidates will have existing legal skills practised throughout their job as a paralegal.

How Paralegal Experience Can Get You a Training Contract >>

Words: Maciko Audrey

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