The most featured members of a law office are lawyers but they are not the only employees who work 50 or more hours per week in the office on cases. Other members of law offices who are just as important as lawyers are people who work as a legal associate. A legal associate is more commonly known throughout the legal world as a paralegal or a legal assistant. A legal associate is responsible for most of the legwork on a case, keeps law offices running smoothly, and keeps lawyers from being bogged down with paperwork. These associates also assist lawyers during trials in the courtroom, keeping all of the evidence and paperwork sorted for easy access, keeping the trial running quickly.
Anyone interested in working as a legal associate will need to obtain a degree in paralegal studies, which can be obtained at the associate’s and bachelor’s level. There are close to 1,000 schools in the United States that offer some form of paralegal training according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those working in legal associate jobs must have a strong understanding of the English language and be able to use rhetoric very well, which makes writing case reports easier. Other important aspects of the job that should be known are clerical and administrative procedures as well as how a courtroom works and the knowledge of laws covered by the law firm where the legal associate works.
Someone just starting out as a legal associate will expect to work roughly 40 hours per week, performing menial tasks such as clerical work. As the associate becomes more experienced and better known in the firm, he or she will then be trusted to perform legal research on laws and historical cases. Rarely will a paralegal be asked to travel with a lawyer to cover cases in different parts of the country. Once all of these responsibilities begin to increase, the paralegal will see his or her workweek increase in hours, especially as deadlines approach of cases they are researching and preparing.
The two most common types of legal associate jobs in the United States are the corporate legal associate and the litigation legal associate. The corporate legal associate will work with private corporations on shareholder agreements, employee contracts, employee benefit plans and stock option plans. The litigation legal associate will work in the public sector of the legal world analyzing legal materials. Most legal associate jobs will also entail writing up contracts, mortgages, and separation agreements while supervising others working in the office that have less experience.
The average legal associate will bring home roughly $46,120 annually, which comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The top ten percent of legal associate jobs will average $73,450 annually and the bottom ten percent of legal associates will average $29,260 annually. The salary varies depending on the experience of the associate, their geographical location, their education and the firm where they work. An associate who is a federal employee will make more than an associate working in a private law firm or a legal services company.