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How to hire a legal assistant

Written by Milena Alexandrova

If you have a busy legal practice and your attorneys are swamped with paperwork and administrative duties that take time away from other tasks, then hiring a legal assistant may be the solution for you. 

Legal assistants provide administrative support to attorneys. This includes performing secretarial duties, conducting research, and handling internal communication channels.

A legal assistant needs several critical abilities to carry out their duties, like speed typing and excellent interpersonal communication skills

In this article, we’ll go over what a legal assistant is and what they do, the differences between a legal assistant and a paralegal, the skills and experience you should look for in candidates, and the steps to take to hire a legal assistant.

A legal assistant is a legal professional who offers administrative support to attorneys. They work with attorneys and paralegals to ensure the smooth and efficient operation of a law office. 

Legal assistants are responsible for filing documents, replying to emails, making copies, knowing when a court opens, and being aware of the date and time they need to submit documents. 

These tasks are time-consuming for attorneys and take time and attention away from their billable work. Hiring a legal assistant to handle these duties gives attorneys time to focus on their primary responsibility: the client and their case.

main duties legal assistant

A legal assistant’s main duties include:

  • Managing client communication: Customer service is key at a law firm. Legal assistants are responsible for communicating with clients and witnesses, replying to emails, and responding to live chats and calls. 

  • Organizing and filing paperwork: Legal assistants file documents and organize briefs for the attorney before a case. 

  • Scheduling appointments: Legal assistants schedule appointments with clients and ensure attorneys are present at court at the right time, place, and date.

  • Carrying out research: Sometimes, legal assistants help with research and proofreading documents. However, these tasks are often delegated to paralegals, which we will discuss in the next section.

Legal assistants and paralegals are often referred to interchangeably, but there are differences between the two professions that you should know about when looking to hire a legal assistant.

Whereas a legal assistant does more administrative work, a paralegal focuses more on legal-specific tasks, like interacting with legal clients, doing research that requires specific legal knowledge, and supporting attorneys in court. 

It’s possible to become a legal assistant with nothing more than a high school diploma, but a paralegal must have at least a bachelor’s or an associate’s degree to do their work. 

However, most firms require their legal assistants and paralegals to have an advanced certification that they can acquire through associations like the National Association for Legal Support Professionals (NALS)[1] and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA).[²]

Although both legal assistants and paralegals are forbidden from giving legal advice, both can communicate with clients. However, paralegals can offer deeper insights through their extensive legal knowledge. On the other hand, legal assistants generally stick to scheduling meetings and dealing with billing.

Having greater legal knowledge and additional certification is associated with better remuneration for both professions since this enables them to take on more responsibilities. However, paralegals tend to be paid higher than legal assistants: The former make an average of $56,444 per year, whereas the latter make an average of $49,174 per year

These numbers will vary depending on location, with law firms in metropolitan areas paying higher salaries than those in rural areas. 

When hiring a legal assistant, you need to consider their qualifications, skills, and experience. 


As mentioned, legal assistants don’t need a formal education to perform their duties, but having an advanced certification is preferable. 

For entry-level professionals, the Accredited Legal Professional (ALP) certificate shows one’s ability to perform business communication tasks, maintain office records, and understand legal terminology.[3]

For professionals with a minimum of three years of legal experience, the Certified Legal Professional/Professional Legal Secretary (CLP/PLS) certificate shows applicants’ mastery of office skills, ability to interact with attorneys and clients, and working knowledge of legal terminology and procedural law.[4]


When hiring a legal assistant, you want them to find a candidate who has the skills needed to perform their duties efficiently. 

TestGorilla has a number of tests that can help you evaluate these skills before you conduct interviews, ensuring you’ll focus on only the top candidates. You can use the following tests to evaluate key legal assistant skills: 

Finding someone who can tick all the boxes can be tricky, but using our pre-employment tests is one of the most reliable ways to find the right candidate for your law firm. 


Depending on your budget, you can opt to hire someone with little to no experience and train them on the job or a veteran who already has several years of work under their belt. 

Of course, the less work you have to do to get your employees up to speed, the better. Research shows that employees generally take one to two years to become fully productive in their role.

That’s why it’s best to hire someone with previous experience on the job. Otherwise, you may have to spend a lot of time and resources training someone before you see a return on your investment.

steps to hire legal assistant

Hiring a legal assistant can be daunting, but if you do it right, you’ll find the right person in no time. Follow these steps to hire a legal assistant for your firm:

  1. Write a job description: Start by writing an engaging legal assistant job description that clearly outlines the legal assistant’s main duties, pay, office hours, and additional perks.

  2. Post your ad: Post your job ad on your website and social media. You can also attend job fairs and networking conferences, ask attorneys for references, or contact a staffing agency to find the right candidates. 

  3. Give candidates a pre-employment assessment: Once applications start coming in, you want to know if the person you’re hiring has the right skills for the job. As mentioned, you can use TestGorilla’s software to evaluate candidates’ skills and determine whether they’ll be a good culture add for your firm. Use the above-mentioned skills tests to screen unqualified candidates.

  4. Conduct interviews: After the pre-assessment stage, it’s time to conduct interviews. Use the results from the tests to learn more about your candidate’s knowledge and address any gaps they might have in their answers. Don’t forget to use interviews to make a judgment of candidates’ character and determine whether they would be a good fit for your team.

  5. Extend an offer: Finally, once you’re happy with the test results and interviews, make a decision and extend your offer. Use this time to negotiate remuneration and reaffirm your desire to hire the candidate. 

And that’s it! Once you hire a legal assistant, make sure to guide them through a proper onboarding process so that they can start working right away and help your firm become more efficient. 

In this article, we discussed what a legal assistant is and what they do, the differences between a legal assistant and a paralegal, and the skills to look for in a legal assistant, like speed typing and excellent communication. 

The skills of a legal assistant are fundamental to the success of your firm. So when you’re looking to hire a legal assistant you need to accurately assess their skills and knowledge before hiring them. TestGorilla can help you evaluate applicants easily and without bias. 

You can start with a free plan here or request a live 30-minute demo with one of our consultants. Leave the guesswork out of your hiring process, and recruit the right way with TestGorilla. 


  1. “National Association for Legal Support Professionals”. NALS. Retrieved March 10, 2023. https://www.nals.org/

  2. “National Federation of Paralegal Associations”. National Federation of Paralegal Associations. Retrieved March 10, 2023. https://www.paralegals.org/

  3. “The Accredited Legal Professional (ALP) Exam”. NALS. Retrieved March 10, 2023. https://www.nals.org/page/ALPPG

  4. “The Certified Legal Professional/Professional Legal Secretary (CLP/PLS) Exam”. NALS. Retrieved March 10, 2023. https://www.nals.org/page/CLPPG


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