Legal Assistant or Paralegal

Legal assistants’ or paralegals’ work developed from the need of ordinary people to have affordable access to justice, as well as the need for people to be trained in law, but not at the Bachelor of Law degree level. They assist lawyers by investigating facts, preparing legal documents, or researching legal precedents.  They conduct research to support a legal proceeding, to formulate a defence or to initiate legal action.

Paralegals play an important role in ensuring that all people have access to justice. Some of their tasks are to prepare affidavits or other documents, such as legal correspondence, organise and maintain documents in paper or electronic filing systems and keep and monitor legal volumes to ensure that the law library is up-to-date.

They direct and coordinate law office activity, including the delivery of subpoenas, meet clients and other professionals to discuss details of cases, investigate facts and law of cases and search pertinent sources, such as public records, to determine causes of action and to prepare cases.

Paralegals prepare for trials by performing tasks such as organising exhibits and gathering and analysing research data, such as statutes, decisions and legal articles, codes and documents.  They file pleadings with court clerks and call upon witnesses to testify at a hearing.

They appraise and inventory real and personal property estate planning, and they may need to arbitrate disputes between parties and assist in the real estate closing process, such as by reviewing title searches.  They prepare legal documents, including briefs, pleadings, appeals, wills and contracts. 

They must have extensive knowledge of the law and the administration of justice. Legal assistants will spend much of their time in offices, boardrooms and courts.  A great deal of travelling could be done depending on the project being worked on and the amount of research or investigation required.

Personal Requirements

  • friendly, helpful and patient
  • honour the values of the community being served
  • responsible
  • communicate with people at all levels of society

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

National Senior Certificate

What to Study

The South African School of Paralegal Studies offers a full-time 5-month Paralegal Diploma Course and also evening courses which run throughout the year.

A Diploma in Paralegal Studies is offered at Damelin and Intec.


  • legal firms
  • legal departments of banking institutions, insurance companies and the corporate sector
  • legal departments of government institutions eg. court administration, deeds office, receiver of revenue
  • estate agents

Further Information

South African School of Paralegal Studies
Lecture Venue: 
Novalis Ubuntu Institute
39 Rosmead Avenue
Tel: (021) 300-3996

Law Society of South Africa 
304 Brooks Street
Menlo Park
Tel: (012) 366-8800

The Law Societies in Pretoria, Cape Town, Bloemfontein and Pietermaritzburg

Getting Started

  • arrange to speak to a legal assistant or paralegal to obtain first-hand information about this field
  • try to obtain vacation work in a law office
  • join a debating society and take part in discussions

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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