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by Bibi Siew on April 12, 2024

The Evolution of Legal Administrative Professionals in Law Firms

In the past, administrative and operations professionals were often seen as just support staff, primarily responsible for clerical tasks and administrative duties. However as businesses have evolved, so too has the role of these professionals. While these positions, in the past, were shunted to the side, they are now viewed as strategic partners within organisations. In this blog series, we will highlight all support roles, administrative or no, and bring them into the lime-light. From discussing their evolution to interviewing the top administrative professional, come with us as we celebrate administrative staff in the law firm.

The Changing Role of Administrative Professionals

When “administrative professional” is mentioned, some may think of a receptionist or secretary, reminiscent of characters in the TV show “Mad Men” (2007), Or even Donna from “Suits” (2011). However the reality is far from this outdated stereotype. Today these professionals have grown far beyond these traditional secretarial duties and instead act as linchpins that hold their organisations together.

In the past, administrative professionals primarily handled basic secretarial tasks such as managing schedules and organising files. However, today they are integral members of legal teams, managing complex schedules, coordinating with clients and courts, reviewing legal documents, and ensuring smooth day-to-day operations.

Similarly, paralegals were traditionally seen as support staff for lawyers. They conducted legal research and drafted documents under supervision. However, they now take on more significant responsibilities such as interviewing clients, filing claims, and even representing clients in certain legal matters independently. Their extensive experience and knowledge make them indispensable members of law firms.

Furthermore, specialisation in areas like criminal law, or real estate allows these professionals to develop expertise and better serve lawyers and clients. As the legal landscape evolves, their roles expand, making them essential contributors to legal team success.

Extensive Training and Expertise:

Administrative and operational professionals in the legal field, such as paralegals, Law Clerks, and Legal Administrative Assistants (LAAs) undergo rigorous training and possess expertise comparable to other professionals.

In Ontario, Paralegals must be licensed by the Law society and complete accredited education programs, often with a four-year Bachelor's degree. Law Clerks and LAAs also require specialised training, typically lasting 8 months to 2 years, preparing them for their roles in the legal field.

These professionals have grown alongside lawyers, often pursuing further education to earn certificates to allow them to hone their skills in specific areas of the law. Whether in corporate, real estate, or other areas, their roles have expanded to provide vital input, ensuring that legal teams function seamlessly.

4 Tips for Advancement:

With the role of support staff in law firms continuously evolving, offering opportunities for professional growth and advancement are strategic steps to propel any career forward and expand the impact made within a firm.

  1. Further Education:

    Pursue additional education in legal studies through specialised certificates, diplomas, or continuing education programs offered by colleges or universities. This can enhance knowledge and skills in specific areas of law and increase value to employers. Consider specialising in a specific area of law, such as family law, corporate law, or litigation. Developing expertise in a niche area can make individuals more valuable to employers and increase opportunities for advancement.

  2. Professional Development:

    Attend workshops, seminars, and conferences related to the legal field to stay updated on industry trends and best practices. Look for opportunities to enhance skills in areas such as legal research, document preparation, and client communication.

  3. Networking:

    Building relationships with lawyers, other legal professionals, and industry organisations through networking events, professional associations, and online platforms. Networking can help you stay informed about job opportunities, gain insights into your legal positions, and expand your professional network. One good way of doing this is to join different local or national associations to connect with peers and access resources tailored to your profession.

    Some examples of these associations include the following:

  4. Seek Feedback and Take on Challenges:

    Request feedback from supervisors and colleagues to identify areas for improvement and opportunities for growth. Actively seek out learning opportunities and take on new challenges to expand skills and experience. Showcase your ability to adapt to change, take on new challenges, and drive positive outcomes for your firm and clients


The evolution of administrative professionals has been remarkable. Once seen as mere administrative roles, positions like Law Clerks, Legal Administrative Assistants (LAAs), and paralegals have become integral parts of legal teams, playing crucial roles in driving success and growth. Recognizing the evolving roles of support staff, it's essential to acknowledge their extensive training and expertise. From paralegals undergoing rigorous licensing processes to LAAs completing certification programs, these professionals invest in developing their skills. Their specialisation in specific areas of law enhances their value to firms, allowing them to provide tailored support and assistance. As they strive for excellence, these professionals play an indispensable role in ensuring the thriving of their organisations in an ever-evolving legal landscape.

If you'd like, please nominate someone here. The winner will be announced on April 24, on Administrative Professionals' Day, and will receive a $500 gift card to the Fairmont Hotels for a well-deserved pampering experience. Feel free to nominate a colleague or even yourself!

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