As lawyers go about their business of winning court cases for the clients, legal secretaries work behind the scenes performing a wide range of administrative and office support tasks. If you are good at multitasking and you have a firm interest in the practice of law, then you can make a competent legal secretary. Read on to learn more about the profession and what it takes to pursue it.
See also: How to Become a Legal Executive
1. What Do Legal Secretaries Do?
Their duties typically include:
- Preparing legal documents such as court appeals, subpoenas and pretrial agreements
- Mailing, faxing or physically delivering these documents to clients
- Arranging and maintaining the legal libraries that are typically found in law firms and lawyers’ private offices
- Answering phone calls
- Ensuring legal offices are sufficiently stocked with office supplies
- Typing memos and distributing them to lawyers
- Gathering medical, employment history and other required information from clients
- Interpreting legal information to clients on behalf of the lawyers
- Transcribing recorded courtroom sessions into text
- Collecting legal fees from clients.
2. Work Environment
Legal secretaries spend their time in a standard office environment, where they work from 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday. The job may involve frequent travel as they accompany lawyers to court proceedings or represent them in meetings.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for legal secretaries is $45,670.
4. Education and Training
To get hired as a legal secretary, you need to attend a legal secretarial training course and obtain a certificate. The Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs (ILSPA) offers a diploma program, which will give you the best preparation for the job. If, however, you’re unable to secure an admission, you can also attend one of the following colleges:
These programs will enhance your understanding of civil and legal processes in the US, equip you with legal research skills, and increase your ability to evaluate various theoretical and practical applications of the law.
5. Important Qualities
To competently execute your duties as a legal secretary, you need:
- Strong research skills
- Strong written and verbal communication skills
- Excellent listening skills for legal transcription
- Strong interpersonal skills to prioritize tasks
- Computer and Internet proficiency
- Strong secretarial skills
- Strong multitasking skills
- Good time management skills
- Good teamwork skills
- Good analytical skills
- The ability to keep information confidential
- A good grasp of legal processes
- Good organizational skills
6. Career Advancement
As a newly hired legal secretary, you will work under seasoned secretaries to gain the experience required to work independently.
Thereafter, you should undertake the following activities to improve your competence and enhance the chances of advancing your career:
- Obtain the Certified Legal Secretary Specialist certification from Legal Secretaries International, Inc.
- Become a member of the ILSPA – You will be able to network with other secretaries and gain access to recruitment opportunities.
In time, you can advance to become an executive legal secretary of top lawyers.
If you are tired of helping lawyers do their thing, and wish to become a lawyer yourself, you can join a law school and pursue a bachelor’s degree in law.
7. Job Opportunities
The employers of legal secretaries include:
- Law firms
- Individual lawyers
- Law schools
- Law courts
- Local authorities
- Private businesses that have legal departments
According to the Occupation Information Network, there will be about 26,800 new jobs for legal secretaries between 2012 and 2022.
So, if you wish to work behind the legal scenes and playing your noble part in ensuring justice is dispensed in a timely manner, then this is the job for you. Never mind it will give you a head start should you decide to become a lawyer.
Do you have any questions about this career? Drop your question or comment below.