Before technology reached the shores of law firms, the difference between paralegals and secretaries were clear. One party deals with all the papers while the other focuses on legal concerns.
Recent advancements, however, blurred the lines between secretaries and paralegals. What used to be distinct and separate positions now overlap. Over the years, each job experienced significant changes that crossed both worlds.
Traditionally, experts used the terms paralegal and legal assistant interchangeably; both terms referred to non-lawyer legal support. Paralegal colleges and institutions made the difference distinct: paralegals do not dabble with administrative work; they instead draft loan documents and help with other legal explanations.
Now, the game is different.
The Lowdown on Legal Secretaries
Legal secretaries are no longer fans of typewriters and hand-written documents; it’s all about smartphones, tablets, and laptops. The increased use of electronic devices in law firms promotes independent work – anytime, anywhere.
Firms who wish to save more and improve on efficiency turn to cost-cutting; in most cases, they eliminate legal support staff positions, which includes secretaries. Those who do get their jobs change their titles; from “legal secretaries,” they become “legal assistants.”
What About the Paralegals?
Technology does not only affect legal secretaries. The role of a paralegal (legal assistants) also changed with the times.
Attorneys now require legal assistants to do research, which the firm can bill to the client. To do this well, paralegals should know where to go in case they need information. Before, the library was the go-to for resources; now, all a paralegal has to do is click and scroll.
Paralegals will also dabble more in the discovery process, especially with large volume documents. Fortunately, document management software and digital scanners are here to help. Their new role focuses on a more tech-savvy approach, which encourages aspiring paralegals to learn more about IT support for research.
The change in the field encourages law firms to re-classify their job descriptions and create new job titles. Despite the changes, the legal field will have a brighter future – all thanks to technology.