What Being a Legal Assistant is Really Like

Welcome! My name is Erin and going into the fall when I found out that I would be learning remotely for the semester, I decided to get a job as a Legal Assistant. I figured this would be a great experience in allowing me to focus on my future career goals, and wanted to write about my experience so that others hoping to get a job as a Legal Assistant or intern at a law firm could be introduced to the main things you can expect to encounter upon beginning the job. These have been three of the main realizations I’ve faced throughout the past two months of my time as a Legal Assistant!

Realization One: This is Not Law and Order 

If you haven't already, you'll quickly realize that being a legal assistant is nothing like you’ve seen on television. Get ready to throw away your previous misconceptions and begin from a blank slate. Cases are not wrapped up in a matter of days, trials do not occur within a week's time after they are filed, and they are not so black and white. There are many things involved in completing a case. A significant time commitment, countless back and forth emails between paralegals, clients, lawyers, opposing counsel and judges, and several hearings are just a few barriers that stand in the way of obtaining a trial.  

My advice:

The sooner you realize this, the sooner you will be able to appreciate the depth of the important work that you'll be doing. Once you do, the day you get to move a case to your closed files, you’ll be able to look back and be proud of the work you put into making that happen.

Realization Two: Legal Language is a Foreign Language

It's very easy to become lost in the language used in the legal world. There are many different terms used that I can almost guarantee you've never heard before in your life. If you’re like me and haven’t yet attended law school, it's very easy to get lost without having any sort of book to tell you what every confusing word you are bound to come across, means.  

My advice:

Take the time to familiarize yourself with the documents you’ll frequently be working with. This is key to enhancing your understanding. The more questions you ask, the better!

Realization Three: Get Ready for the Tough Love

Being a legal assistant is a stressful job. Attorneys can be difficult bosses. It’s even more difficult when you receive conflicting directions from the paralegal and the attorney. However, it’s super important to be able to adapt to a variety of different personalities. Because of this, you might suddenly find you’re having a hard time keeping up with their varying needs, leading to frustration on their part. However, it is important to keep a tough skin and be open to the suggestions of both parties involved.  

My advice:

Pay close attention. When receiving conflicting directions, I often find it helpful to ask for clarification from the person who designated the task. Sometimes, I’ll even repeat it back to them, so that if any confusion arises in terms of why I did something one way and not the other, I'm able to say I followed the directions exactly as I was instructed!