Job description: Legal secretaries work with lawyers, providing general administrative and clerical assistance. This includes organizing and compiling files as well as proofreading and editing legal documents, which can include motions, complaints, appeals and summons. They may conduct legal research, keep track of new laws and court decisions, and review legal publications. Another way legal secretaries assist lawyers is by collecting client information specific to an individual case and maintaining records and notes from meetings, legal hearings and interviews. They fill out legal forms and applications in connection with courtroom requests or accidents. Their duties also include scheduling appointments, answering phone calls, drafting and typing office memos, and faxing and emailing documents.
Job responsibilities may vary depending on the setting. For example, a corporate legal secretary handles transactions related to employee and shareholder relations. This may include gathering information for SEC filings, filing articles of incorporation and distributing shareholder reports. A legal secretary working in real estate law may be responsible for handling real estate closings, executing wills and other documents pertaining to real estate transactions.
Legal Secretary Job Summary
- This career field requires good written communication skills, the ability to meet deadlines, strong attention to detail and excellent time management skills.
- Legal secretaries work in a wide variety of settings including private law firms, corporate legal departments and government agencies.
- During busy periods, legal secretaries may be required to work longer hours.
- Formal education and training received through a college or university can lead to increased job opportunities.
Work Environment for Legal Secretaries
Legal secretaries usually work in law firms, corporate legal departments or government agencies. The work that they do requires sitting for most of the day. They may spend a large amount of time working on a computer, which can potentially lead to occasional back pain or carpal tunnel syndrome. Most legal secretaries work full time, 40 hours per week, but may be required to work longer hours during busy periods.
Education, Training and Licensing
While a degree is not necessarily required in this field, most legal secretaries complete specialized training to gain familiarity with legal terminology. A college or university education can contribute to increased job opportunities for individuals seeking to enter this career. Programs that provide courses in family, corporate, criminal and estate law and litigation help to acquaint students with common legal terminology and court procedures pertaining to a specific area of law.
Many individuals start out in this field working under another experienced legal secretary within a law firm. After gaining experience, additional responsibilities are given for work on more challenging tasks. Some law firms have different ways of handling cases and legal procedures. In this situation, they usually provide regular training sessions to familiarize staff with their specific way of handling work, including any necessary software and technology.
Certification is available to those who have work experience or who have completed an approved training program. The National Association of Legal Secretaries, Inc. offers the Accredited Legal Secretary (ALS) and Professional Legal Secretary (PLS) designations. In addition, Legal Secretaries International offers a Certified Legal Secretary Specialist (CLSS) credential to those specializing in civil litigation, criminal law, probate, property or business law. Individuals must have at least five years of experience and pass an exam to receive this designation.
To be successful as a legal secretary, certain skill sets and abilities are required. Legal secretaries need to be able to manage their time effectively, pay close attention to detail, meet deadlines, work well under pressure and have good written communication and organizational skills. The ability to communicate well with supervisors, subordinates, co-workers and clients is also essential. Secretaries working in the legal field need to be aware of changes to federal, state and local rules, along with common legal procedures and terminology. Individuals should also have the ability to learn quickly, possess good computer skills and know how to use office equipment such as copiers, scanners and fax machines.
Jobs Outlook and Earnings for Legal Secretaries
Legal secretaries held approximately 244,380 jobs in May 2009, according to research published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Most of these positions were in private law firms, legal services companies, and local and state government.
The BLS forecasts employment of legal secretaries to have faster than average growth compared to other occupations, with a 14% to 19% increase in jobs between 2008 and 2018.
BLS records for May 2009 indicate that the average annual salary for legal secretaries was $42,940. The middle 50% earned between $31,930 and $52,340, while the lowest 10% made about $26,330 per year. The highest 10% earned upwards of $63,980 annually.