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What is a Legal Secretary?

A legal secretary typically provides administrative assistance to lawyers and judges. However, a wide variety of industries with in-house legal counsel also hire legal secretaries. This professional needs traditional secretarial skills and a firm grasp of the legal system and terminology.

Due to the nature of their position, they may be involved in preparing complicated transactions or court appearances. A legal secretary should have exceptional communication skills. Likewise, a gracious, competent disposition is essential since they are the primary contact person for clients and co-counsel. They also need to be able to use discretion and discernment.

What Is a Legal Secretary Responsible For?

Legal secretary jobs primary work to support a productive and efficient office environment. They may support more than one attorney by helping them maximize their time. Highly-developed time management and productivity skills are a must. This professional needs to be tremendously organized to track simultaneous cases, projects, and proceedings to make sure all documents are filed on time.

Along with knowledge of the legal system, experience with clerical duties balances out this position. The necessary skills to be successful in legal secretary jobs include:

  • Clear verbal and written communication skills
  • Sharp listening abilities
  • Easily discern useful information
  • Be polite, yet firm when necessary
  • Basic computer software skills
  • Accurate and fast typing skills
  • Able to handle some data entry tasks
  • Basic online application skills
  • Successfully handle, plan, and executive scheduled tasks
  • Coordinate paperwork flow around the office
  • Research skills
  • Gather information
  • Keep the office running smoothly all day, every day
  • Organizational skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Tracking tasks and appointments
  • Bookkeeping and accounting
  • Proofreading and editing documents
  • Answering and tracking emails and correspondences
  • Interact with the public with empathy
  • Maintain good professional relationships with clients and legal team
  • Be dependable
  • Impeccable planning skills
  • Problem solving skills
  • Able to multitask
  • Complete various assignments in a short time frame
  • Can work with minimal oversight and guidance

In conjunction with clerical duties, other key duties specific to a legal secretary include the ability to

  • Prepare court forms and statements,
  • Transcribe and proofread legal documents, lawyer’s dictation, and handwritten notes.
  • Manage, index, and update records, projects, pleadings, and discovery binders.
  • Scheduling appointments
  • Assist in tracking billable hours
  • Arrange for travel details
  • Enter and process docket cases, notices of hearings, postponements, reports, and other data into computer files
  • Transcribe legal dictation, conferences, meeting minutes, and interviews,
  • Log and schedule administrative hearings
  • Maintain attorney calendars
  • Prepare trial documents, notebooks, exhibits, and other materials for case presentation

This career choice is fast-paced, high-stress, and greatly demanding with firm deadlines. The ability to organize numerous projects in diverse stages of completion is a must. It is not uncommon for a legal secretary to work late in preparations for large cases. The person in this position must be able to handle stress well.

Where Does a Legal Secretary Work?

Most legal secretaries work in private law firms, public legal agencies, and courthouses. In the same way, private corporate legal departments and public interests firms are among those actively hiring highly-qualified legal administrative assistants.

Although most of their work is in an office setting, positions for virtual legal secretaries working remotely are on the rise. This option to work from home may make the long hours more appealing.

What Degree is Required to Become a Legal Secretary?

The nature of legal secretary jobs requires the person to have specialized knowledge of the legal system and the processes involved as well as strong clerical and administrative skills.

Some companies will hire persons with a high school diploma or GED with the expectation of some form of on-the-job training or placement in a training program. Some companies prefer a Bachelor’s Degree. Keep in mind that specialized training or certification may be required for better pay.

How Much Money Does a Legal Secretary Earn?

The U.S. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, in its most recent report, estimates the average hourly wage for a legal secretary and administrative assistant to be $25.36. This works out to be just under $53,000 annually. Top paying industries for this position include:

  • Scientific research and development services,
  • Telecommunications, and
  • Real estate.

While the U.S. The Bureau of Labor Statistics does predict a decline in persons in this position over the next four years, the role of a legal secretary is still in large demand.

Legal Secretary Job Requirements

Lawyers need competent assistants who can help them optimize their time by keeping track of deadlines and representing the company with professionalism when working with clients and court officials.

The ability to perform accurate legal and background research when requested is expected. Drafting, proofreading, and filing classified legal documents, motions, and letters of intent should be anticipated. Confidentiality is crucial and must be maintained at all times considering the subject matter of legal proceedings.

In addition to day-to-day and recurrent routine responsibilities, it is expected this administrative assistant will be able to communicate effectively with clients in person, over the phone, and through email. As the gatekeeper to the lawyers’ schedules and agendas, a legal secretary must be able to screen, direct and prioritize incoming correspondence and requests. The ability to maintain precisely detailed calendars is must-have.

Knowledge of and experience with dictation and transcription software and online court filing are requisites to this position. Speed and precision will be necessary to sustain a productive and profitable environment for judicial personnel.

Legal Secretary Career Path

The Legal Secretary field generally falls between clerical and paralegal. Depending on the firm, completion of advanced or more specialized certification programs may be required for promotion. This position can also lead to a paralegal role, opening up even more opportunities for professional growth.

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