Paralegal vs. Legal Assistant?

scales.jpgIn my profession -- the court reporting business -- there's not much distinction between court reporters who work in court versus court reporters who work in the freelance world doing depositions, arbitrations or hearings. The term court reporter is synonymous with all of them.

Not so in the legal support staff world. The debate is this: paralegal versus legal assistant? What are the distinctions inherent in those two terms? I found an interesting article which can be found here:

The Shakespearean analogy about a rose still smelling as sweet despite a different name doesn’t quite work when applied to the paralegal profession. The professional status of a paralegal would not stay the same if the title changed to “legal assistant,” according to paralegals who responded to the March/April issue’s My Opinion Survey. An overwhelming 94 percent of respondents said “paralegal” denotes a higher professional status than “legal assistant.”[snip]In other survey results, 91 percent of 33 respondents said the term “para­legal” should become the universal job title, considering that more associations throughout the United States have changed their names by replacing “legal assistant” with “paralegal.” “I believe the term [‘paralegal’] should be universal as far as associations [go],” said a Memphis paralegal with eight years of experience. “But I also know that some people who classify themselves using this term [don’t] have the skills … or training associ­ated with this type of profession.”
What does everyone else feel about those two terms? What's it like in your law firm? I would love to know!
Monday, July 30, 2007

Todd Olivas

Todd Olivas is a court reporter and entrepreneur.
He founded TO&A in 2003.

  Comment by elisa | Monday, February 27, 2012
thats what im trying to find out. would love to get in career in the legal field but dont know which school would be best for me. and what do i look for paralegal or legal assistant, or legal secretary? and having trouble finding an online campus here in texas. any suggestions?
  Comment by Beth | Thursday, February 21, 2019
I have been in the business almost 20 years. I have an associates certificate in legal assistant studies and a bachelor`s degree in Journalism from Texas A&M University. Honestly I find most lawyers consider the terms interchangeable and most have a tendency to defer to legal assistant rather than Paralegal. To me, honestly, it`s the lawyer profession dumbing down our status because so many lawyers (to me) seem to have so little respect for their assistants. A few, however, will say legal assistant is the same a secretary and sticks to typing, phone calls and filing. Still - do not be fooled! Most Legal Secretaries fulfill the exact same roles as Paralegals no matter how you slice it!

Leave a Comment

Your Name (Required)

Your Email (Required but will not be posted)

Please enter the following letters into the box:
(This is to help fight against spam. The letters are NOT case sensitive.)