Legal secretaries complete important administrative and clerical work for attorneys, paralegals and the court system. They typically work under the supervision of a lawyer or paralegal to handle correspondence, organize and maintain legal files, schedule appointments, and record information about important legal matters. Many legal secretaries answer phone calls or direct phone calls to the proper legal departments.
Because the duties of legal secretaries can vary so widely, these professionals may be asked to juggle a lot of different responsibilities or may need to specialize in a particular area of the legal profession. This variety is part of what makes the legal secretary career interesting and challenging. Legal secretary jobs are so integral to the practice of law that it is hard to imagine how the legal system could function without them.
A Day in the Life of a Legal Secretary
Legal secretaries spend much of their working hours preparing correspondence and legal documents such as summonses, complaints, subpoenas and motions. Legal secretaries may also review legal journals to help other colleagues complete legal research. Since legal secretaries work within the court system, they need to understand legal terminology, legal procedure and court rules.
Other daily tasks performed by legal secretaries include:
- Scheduling appointments for lawyers or various other office personnel
- Operating office equipment
- Obtaining personal or financial information about clients or other persons
- Preparing documentation for various legal matters
- Issuing documentation or identification to customers or employees
- Preparing business correspondence regarding various legal matters
- Recording information from meetings
- Searching various files, databases or reference material to obtain needed information for the legal process
- Providing information to coworkers
As you explore the legal secretary career, it's important to keep in mind that legal secretary jobs vary quite a bit. The tasks a legal secretary is asked to perform depends on their unique position and the day's activities. For that reason, legal secretaries need to be flexible in their work and be willing to tackle whatever comes their way.
Important Characteristics for Legal Secretaries
According to data from the U.S. Department of Labor, legal secretaries need a wide range of skills to thrive in their careers. Some of the most important skills are excellent reading comprehension and the ability to communicate effectively. Legal secretaries also need excellent active listening skills and good customer service skills since they frequently interact with clients. Since legal secretaries need to use computers and various types of software, an understanding of technology is also critical.
Typical Steps for Becoming a Legal Secretary
Becoming a legal secretary may require one or two years of higher education beyond high school. Here are the steps you can take to get started in this role:
1. Earn a high school diploma or equivalent. The first step to getting started in a legal secretary career is earning a high school diploma or completing a GED. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also says that high school students or graduates who complete word processing or office procedure courses can make entry into a legal secretary role more likely.
2. Attend community college or technical school. While it may be possible to acquire an entry-level position without college courses, the BLS notes that individuals with community college or technical school experience may have an edge. Legal secretary training courses introduce students to legal terminology and the legal correspondence they will encounter on the job. While a degree may not be necessary for employment, there are numerous degree options one can pursue in this field:
- Legal Secretary Certificate
- Legal Secretary Course
- Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies
- Bachelor of Science in Legal Support and Services
- Master of Science in Legal Studies
- Associate of Arts in Paralegal Studies
3. Find entry-level employment and complete on-the-job training. Most legal secretaries learn how their office operates during a brief period of on-the-job training. This training usually lasts a few weeks and is a supplement to completing legal secretary training courses. This on-the-job training is where a legal secretary will take everything she has learned about the legal process and legal terminology and put it into action.
- Legal Secretaries, CareerOneStop, U.S. Department of Labor, https://www.careeronestop.org/Toolkit/Careers/Occupations/occupation-profile.aspx?keyword=Legal%20Secretaries&onetcode=43601200&location=&lang=en
- Online Legal Secretary Courses, Penn Foster Career School, https://www.pennfoster.edu/programs-and-degrees/administrative-assistant/legal-secretary-career-diploma
- Secretaries and Administrative Assistants, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-24 Edition, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/secretaries-and-administrative-assistants.htm#tab-1