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Legal staffing refers to the employment of legal professionals in a private law office, a corporation, a government agency, or any other organization that utilizes legal services. Some examples of legal staff persons can include attorneys, paralegals, and legal secretaries. Organizations employ legal professionals for a number of reasons, such as drawing up contracts with other businesses or providing tax advice. Smaller businesses might contract with legal professionals as needed, while larger companies might have their own permanent legal departments.
In the U.S., anyone practicing as an attorney has usually completed law school and passed a bar exam. Most lawyers are licensed to practice in one or more states, and some typical areas of practice include family law, real estate, and criminal or civil litigation. Many attorneys choose to specialize in certain areas, such as international or nonprofit law. A lawyer may practice on his or her own, or be part of a large law firm with numerous other legal staff members. Still others work on a temporary or contract basis through a legal staffing firm.
Local rules may vary, but non-lawyers are not generally permitted to practice law. Furthermore, most attorneys are ultimately responsible for the work produced under their supervision. A paralegal, sometimes referred to as a legal assistant, can carry out many legal tasks at the request of a lawyer but cannot provide clients with legal advice or otherwise engage in activities that would be considered practicing law. Some of their common responsibilities include preparing legal documents and maintaining client records.
Legal staffing can also include the employment of legal secretaries, most of whom perform administrative tasks under the supervision of an attorney or paralegal. Educational requirements can vary, and a legal secretary job is often considered an entry-level position. Working as a legal secretary does not always require a formal education, and on-the-job training is often sufficient. In some offices, he or she may function more as an administrative professional who greets clients, schedules appointments, and generally manages the office.
Many organizations work with legal staffing firms, recruiting outside professionals to fulfill needs beyond the capabilities of their existing employees. Examples of professionals often in demand can include law clerks and document coders. Temporary legal staffing is also an option for organizations that may not need full-time paralegals or legal secretaries, for example. Instead, they might hire these professionals on an as-needed basis for certain projects.