How to Become a Legal Secretary
A legal secretary prepares legal documents, sets appointments, and keeps accurate records of legal proceedings. Many legal secretaries work as assistants for lawyers and judges, there is usually a combination of appointment setting and secretarial duties, as well as more involved duties such as research and preparing legal documents.
Legal secretaries often spend a lot of time working one on one with clients, and will often do the leg work on cases for the lawyer they are working for. Some will even do involved work such as preparing defenses for clients or researching precedents, depending on their role and level of experience.
If you are interested in law, are strong in the humanities, and have excellent organizational skills, then a career as a legal secretary could be the right choice for you. The National Association of Legal Assistants is a good source of information about working as a legal secretary.
Education Requirements to Become a Legal Secretary
To become a legal secretary, you can complete a two year associates degree program that focuses on the skills you will need. This includes a wide range of topics, from learning the law, to providing customer service and appointment setting, to preparing legal documents.
Having good computer skills is essential to become a legal secretary, so you will need to have a thorough understanding of work processing programs, as well as good computer literacy. Strong communication skills are also needed, both written and verbal.
Legal Secretary Job Description
Some legal secretaries may work only to offer secretarial support, such as answering inquiries and setting appointments. Others have a far more complex role that could involve preparing legal documents, setting court dates, and researching cases. The role you take as a legal secretary will depend on your experience, interests, and skills.
While a lawyer will ultimately take both the responsibility and the credit for the work they do, they delegate many tasks to legal assistants and secretaries. If you enjoy law and have an aptitude for research, this could be a role you enjoy very much. There is lots of paperwork, research, and computer work involved, however this can be very rewarding when you find a break on a case or are able to achieve an excellent outcome for a client.
Some of the duties of a legal secretary could include:
- Answering phone calls
- Appointment setting and diary management
- Preparing legal documents
- Setting court dates
- Keeping filing systems for documents
- Communicating with lawyers and judges
- Researching cases
- Preparing a defense
Legal Secretary Salary and Career Path
Most legal secretaries begin their career by taking a position as a receptionist in a court house, or within a law firm. As they gain experience, they will be promoted into more advanced roles with greater responsibilities.
A legal secretary could work within a law firm, a court house, or in a state or federal law enforcement agency. There are good job prospects available in both the public and private sectors. There is currently a good amount of growth in this area, however many students of business and accounting are seeking employment within the legal field, so competition may increase in the coming years. The best opportunities will go to those with a relevant associate's degree.
Many legal secretaries receive good benefits, including health insurance, dental, and optical. They also receive paid vacation and sick leave. Some that complete legal work may also be on a bonus system, allowing them to earn a higher salary based on results.
Some legal secretaries will move on the administrative positions, supervising other staff and ensuring the smooth running of an office or law firm. Others will become paralegals with further study, or even lawyers themselves.
Starting out as a legal secretary, you could expect to earn between $35,000 and $40,000 a year. With some experience, you could earn closer to the median salary of $45,000 a year. The top 10% of legal secretaries earn more than $70,000 a year.
If you have a good attention to detail, enjoy a busy environment, and have an affinity with the law, then you will likely gain job satisfaction when you become a legal secretary. Both employment prospects and offered salary are good for those seeking this type of work.
*Salary Information provided by the Bureau Of Labor Statistics