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Corporate Legal Assistant Job Description, Career as a Corporate Legal Assistant, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training Varies—see profile

Salary Median—$39,130 per year

Employment Outlook Very good

Definition and Nature of the Work

As laws grow more complex and legal services more expensive, many companies are relying on corporate legal assistants to handle tasks that do not require lawyers' expertise. Working under the supervision of a corporate attorney, assistants research background material, index and summarize documents, and help prepare financial statements and tax returns. They may also prepare employee contracts, stock option plans, and mortgages.

Legal assistants have extensive knowledge of Internet databases and computer software packages that are specifically designed for legal research. If they are working on large antitrust cases, for example, they can analyze, store, and retrieve thousands of documents by computer, decreasing the amount of paper they must handle and the time it takes to do the work.

Corporate legal assistants, who are also called corporate paralegals or legal technicians, work for banks, insurance companies, manufacturers, and many other types of businesses. Some are employed by companies that design legal research software, working as market analysts, sales representatives, and systems programmers.

Education and Training Requirements

Many companies require that legal assistants have specialized training in business law, legal procedures, and terminology. Formal paralegal training programs range from two-year programs to four-year and postgraduate programs. Most programs generally require that applicants have high school diplomas. The four-year programs often require entrance examinations. Bachelor's degrees and high scores on standardized legal aptitude tests are usually required for paralegal programs offered by law schools. Legal assistants who plan to work in business should, in addition, take courses in business law, personnel management, finance, and database research.

Some legal assistants enter programs that lead to certification in paralegal studies. Applicants must have bachelor's degrees plus one year of experience as a legal assistant or high school diplomas plus seven years of experience. Since 1976 the National Association of Legal Assistants has sponsored a certification examination that measures knowledge of federal law and procedures.

Many businesses require that their corporate legal assistants have specialized training in business law and in legal procedures and terminology. (© Lew Long/Corbis.)

Getting the Job

Placement offices of business schools and legal training programs often post recruiting bulletins and job openings, and paralegal associations maintain job banks or referral services. Employment agencies, state employment services, newspaper classified ads, and job banks on the Internet may offer job leads. Job seekers can also apply directly to companies that hire legal assistants.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Because law is so important to business practices, legal assistants often get promoted to administrative positions of increased responsibility. Some legal assistants advance by going to law school.

The employment of corporate legal assistants is expected to grow faster than the average for all jobs through 2014, with demand highest in insurance companies, estate and trust departments of large banks, and real estate companies. The growth of prepaid legal plans may require more legal assistants as well.

Working Conditions

People employed as corporate legal assistants may have to handle confidential business information, so the ability to use discretion is important. Most corporate legal assistants work in offices or law libraries. Overtime may be required.

Where to Go for More Information

American Bar Association
321 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 988-5000

National Association of Legal Assistants
1516 S. Boston Ave., Ste. 200
Tulsa, OK 74119-4013
(918) 587-6828

Earnings and Benefits

Salaries vary, depending on education, training, experience, and type of employer. In 2004 the median salary for corporate legal assistants was $39,130 per year. The most experienced assistants earned more than $61,390 per year. Benefits generally include paid holidays and vacations, health and life insurance, and pension plans.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesLaw and Public Service