Different jobs in an organization's legal department include lawyers, legal secretaries, law librarians and paralegals. Not every legal department will have members that represent all of these professions, as the needs of different organizations vary. The education and training for each of these jobs likewise varies, with attorneys typically having the most education, and commanding the highest salaries. The education required to take on the other types of legal jobs vary by region and employer requirements.
Attorneys are typically the cornerstone of any legal department. A legal department's lawyers advise an organization's leadership on legal issues, review contracts and documents and represent the legal interests of the organization. To become a lawyer, an individual must typically complete a course of study and then pass the bar exam in the jurisdiction in which he wishes to practice. In some cases, an attorney may also have additional training and education in specific areas including business or finance.
Large legal departments may have a law librarian on staff. The law librarian is responsible for maintaining a collection of reference books and performing research on legal cases and business issues. Law librarians typically hold a library science degree and may also have a degree in law or in paralegal studies. If a law librarian works in the legal department of a large company, he may also serve as a corporate librarian.
A legal department may be supported by paralegals, sometimes known as legal assistants, and legal secretaries. The education that the support personnel have varies by jurisdiction as well as employer requirements. Some paralegals hold bachelor's or even master's degrees in paralegal studies, while others have either been trained on the job or completed a certificate program. Legal secretaries may have been trained in office management at a vocational school, may have received their training on the job or may even hold university degree. Both legal secretaries as well as paralegals may hold certification through a professional association.
The duties of legal support personnel will vary by firm. Paralegals may often assist with legal research, particularly if the legal department does not employ a law librarian. The paralegal may also prepare legal documents and may assist staff attorneys during meetings with employees, company leadership or outside organizations. Legal secretaries may focus more on office administrative work, though sometimes the work of a paralegal and legal secretary may overlap. As a paralegal or legal secretary gains more experience, he may be entrusted with more significant duties within the legal department.