The terms legal assistant and paralegal are used interchangeably, much like the terms attorney and lawyer. The practice of law is regulated by each of the 50 states. In all states, legal assistants are prohibited from practicing law without a license (not to be confused with an occupational license). They are not allowed to represent a client or give legal advice. A more detailed explanation is available on this site at Professional and Ethical Standards for Legal Assistants
The training required for a legal assistant is primarily determined by the individual employer. Numerous schools across the nation offer legal assistant training programs. The American Bar Association Standing Committee on Legal Assistants conducts a program of approving those schools which meet its guidelines. In addition, legal assistant programs that are in substantial compliance with the ABA guidelines may join the American Association for Paralegal Education. GALA may be contacted for a a directory of paralegal training programs.
Legal assistants are employed in private law offices, corporations,
insurance companies, governmental agencies and offices, banks, and
courts. Some legal assistants have opened their own business and
work with attorneys on a case by case basis. There is a growing
demand for paralegals.
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