Updated January 2024
Eager to work in the legal field without spending years in university? A legal assistant career may be the ideal alternative.
Legal assistants provide the kind of essential support every lawyer needs. They handle a wide range of tasks, from conducting research and preparing documents to scheduling meetings and communicating with clients.
But like any job, working as a legal assistant has both advantages and drawbacks. So you should see the whole picture before making any decisions.
In this post, we describe the major pros and cons of a legal assistant career. Find out what to expect in this role and see if it makes sense for you.
PRO: LEGAL ASSISTANT TRAINING IS QUICK
A major upside to this career is that the training is quite short.
You don't have to go to university, complete law school, or pass the bar exam. A college diploma is all you need to get started.
You can finish a legal assistant program in about a year. Some accelerated options take even less time. For instance, the legal assistant program at Herzing College is just nine months long.
CON: LONG HOURS AND pressure to meet deadlines
Many legal assistants don't follow a standard 9-to-5 workday.
If the lawyers you support are putting in long hours, chances are you will too. It all depends on where you're employed, but you could find yourself working late into the evening or on weekends or holidays.
A legal assistant career requires meeting strict deadlines and juggling multiple tasks. If you're well organized and pay attention to details, that's not a problem. But if you tend to be forgetful and have difficulty staying on task, you may find the job stressful.
PRO: GOOD demand FOR LEGAL ASSISTANTS
If you become a legal assistant, you can expect your skills to be in high demand.
The Government of Canada Job Bank gives legal assistant three or four out of a possible five stars for outlook in every province across the country. That means we're expecting steady-to-strong demand for legal assistants over the next few years.
So now is an excellent time to begin a legal assistant career.
CON: PRESSURE TO BE PERFECT
A legal assistant's role is all about the details.
There's pressure to get every little thing right. Even small mistakes can cause your firm to lose a case or get sued by a client.
You have to be meticulous about making sure all files are complete, correct procedures are followed, and deadlines are met.
That's where a quality legal assistant program can help. You will learn legal office procedures, and how to prepare a wide range of documents for family law, corporate law, wills and estates, litigation, and real estate.
PRO: MEANINGFUL WORK
A legal assistant career allows you to do challenging work that really matters.
Lawyers truly rely on legal assistants to help them serve clients and manage caseloads. You can even specialize in a particular area of law that interests you, like corporate law or litigation.
This work is all about helping people through major life events and ensuring justice is served. It's a meaningful career where you can really make a difference.
CON: legal WORK CAN BE EMOTIONALLY DRAINING
Listening to the stories of clients who are caught in tough circumstances can be difficult.
Legal assistants may deal with people who have lost their jobs, are deeply in debt, have serious health issues, or are fighting for custody of their children.
Knowing you are working to improve the situation can be inspiring. But you won't always get a positive outcome, and that can take a toll.
PRO: wide range of JOB OPTIONS
Once you earn your legal assistant diploma, you have a broad range of job options.
You could work for a firm that deals with several different areas of law. Or you could work for one that specializes in a particular niche, such as family law or real estate law.
And law firms are not the only places that hire legal assistants.
You could also find opportunities in:
- Private corporations
- Real estate firms
- Government agencies
- Land title offices
CON: SOME LAWYERS ARE HARD TO WORK FOR
Some managers are better than others.
As a legal assistant, you may end up working with a demanding lawyer who doesn't always appreciate your efforts. You may even work with someone who behaves unethically.
Many lawyers are great bosses. But even if yours isn't, you must always act like a true professional.
On the bright side, legal assistants are in demand. If you're not happy at work, you can always look for better opportunities elsewhere.
PRO: good EARNING POTENTIAL
A legal assistant career can come with a decent wage.
The Job Bank says the median salary for legal assistants in Canada is about $52,000. The top legal assistants in the country earn about $85,000.
And remember: you can make that kind of money without even having a bachelor's degree.
EXPLORE LEGAL ASSISTANT TRAINING AT HERZING COLLEGE
Have you weighed the pros and cons and think you'd make a great legal assistant?
Herzing College offers an accelerated legal assistant program that takes just nine months, including a four-week internship. Training is delivered online.
Our graduates get hired by employers like:
- Fillmore Riley LLP
- Provincial Court Office
- King’s Bench Trial Division
- Winnipeg Land Titles Office
- Thompson Dorfman Sweatman LLP
- MLT Aikins Law
Click below to get more details on the program or chat live with an admissions advisor. We're here to help!