Legal Secretary – It’s Not Just Filing and Typing
Most people have a perception of the duties performed by a secretary, which includes clerical tasks and other office admin duties. With the advent of technology, the responsibilities of most secretaries have also increased. A legal secretary has all the duties and responsibilities of a regular secretary but with added tasks and responsibilities. The key qualification for working in the legal field is having an extensive knowledge of legal terminology and court procedures. Because of these added qualifications, a legal secretary’s salary can be substantially greater than that of a regular secretary. A legal secretary’s job description typically includes performing and overseeing all clerical tasks necessary to keep a law firm running efficiently. Legal secretaries also prepare complicated documents such as spreadsheets and pleadings. Pleadings are legal documents that are typically filed with the court and become a part of the legal file in a lawsuit. Hence, a legal secretary should be proficient in grammar with strong spelling skills. Also, legal secretaries are required to have familiarity with local court rules regarding content and formatting of pleadings, and rules for filing these documents. Proofreading is also a big part of a legal secretary’s job qualifications. Other key skills include:
- Organizational skills
- Ability to multitask effectively
- Attention to detail
- Communication skills
Legal secretaries typically use computers to perform the bulk of their job duties. Computer skills are a necessary requirement for a successful legal secretary. Computer skills usually include filing pleadings with the court via electronic-filing. Other duties include providing lawyers with assistance with tasks such as research, gathering documents, and labeling these documents as exhibits should the matter proceed to trial. A legal secretary is assigned to one or more attorneys; they must maintain a detailed calendaring system for each attorney. Deadlines are crucial in a lawsuit. More routine duties such as setting appointments, answering calls, typing, and filing are also part of a legal secretary’s job description. Legal secretaries can also become “specialized” and work in one of the many legal specialty fields such as family law, civil litigation, criminal law, and bankruptcy. This typically requires experience in that particular specialty, or taking courses for that specialty. These courses are usually offered by local associations for legal secretaries and paralegal. Additionally, there is a Professional Legal Secretary credential offered by The Association for Legal Professionals (NALS). As with any career, having a credential highlights the level of skill a legal secretary possesses. Legal secretaries work in a typical office environment. However, they are not limited to only working for law offices or law firms. A legal secretary may also be employed by corporate legal offices, nonprofit organizations, and government offices. The typical work hours are 9-5 or 8-5 (allowing for an hour lunch break). Legal secretaries are, however, occasionally required to attend court hearings and trials with their supervising attorney. It is important to note that a legal secretary and legal assistant are different positions and are not interchangeable. In some states, a legal assistant must meet the same qualifications as a paralegal in order to use the title of legal assistant. Legal secretary salaries vary from state-to-state, and city-to-city. Larger cities and larger firms tend to pay higher salaries. In 2010, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected a 4% increase in need for legal secretaries from 2010 to 2020. The BLS also set the median salary range as approximately $42,000 per year. As previously stated, larger firms tend to pay higher salaries. So, is the position of legal secretary for you? If you are interested in working in the legal field, and routinely being challenged by new and interesting tasks, then this could be the field for you! Visit meditec.com to learn more about this field.