Legal Assistant

Councils have duties that they must fulfil by law.  They also purchase large amounts of supplies and equipment and issue a lot of contracts for work to be carried out.  In addition they are employers and have obligations under health and safety and employment law.  All councils have legal departments, which advise council managers and elected members on legal matters. Legal assistants provide administrative support for this work.

Work Environment
Legal assistants are mainly office-based, although they may sometimes attend meetings in other departments or attend court.  They normally work a 37-hour week, but part-time work and job-sharing are often available.

Daily Activities
Legal assistants provide support to solicitors in a number of different areas of the law relating to, for example, highways, housing, planning or social services.  Legal assistants' duties usually include:

  • general administrative duties such as filing, answering the telephone and inputting data into computers;
  • assisting with the drafting of legal documents;
  • drawing up contracts for work carried out by external contractors;
  • helping to prepare tree preservation orders, traffic regulation orders, housing eviction orders, or footpath creation and diversion orders;
  • preparing and sending information to County Court staff if the council intends to prosecute anyone for non payment of debts (such as rent arrears);
  • attending the Magistrates' Courts to assist solicitors by organising their paperwork and taking notes;
  • liaising with clients and ensuring a good level of customer care;
  • advising other council departments about legal issues relating to their area of work;
  • keeping up-to-date with new legal developments.

Skills & Ability
Legal assistants need to be:

  • knowledgeable about certain aspects of law;
  • computer literate with good research skills;
  • organised and methodical;
  • accurate, with good attention to detail;
  • able to work well in a team and on their own initiative;
  • able to communicate, both in person and in writing;
  • able to present and speak in public.

Entry Requirements
Most councils ask for a minimum of four GCSEs/S Grades or equivalent (A*-C/1-3) including English and maths, but many entrants have higher qualifications, including A levels and sometimes degrees.  Some experience of working in an administrative support role will probably be needed, possibly in a legal environment, although this is not essential. Some councils may ask for a minimum of one years' experience plus Part I of the CILEX qualification.  Legal assistants are usually encouraged to study for a professional paralegal qualification via the Institute of Legal Executives (CILEX).

Future Prospects & Opportunities
Legal assistants may have the opportunity to specialise in one area of law.  There are prospects of promotion to a post of senior legal assistant, which carries more responsibility and involves supervising junior staff.  Legal assistants who qualify via the Institute of Legal Executives may undertake further training to become solicitors.

Further Information & Services
Chartered Institute of Legal Executives
Institute of Paralegals
National Association of Licensed Paralegals
Solicitors in Local Government
The Law Society

You may find further information about this area of work through Careers Wales ( or in your local library, careers office or school careers library.

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