How to Become a Certified Legal Secretary

Research the requirements to become a legal secretary. Learn about the job description and duties and read the step-by-step process to start a career in the legal profession.

Should I Become a Certified Legal Secretary?

Legal secretaries work under the supervision of attorneys assisting with preparation of legal documents including subpoenas, summonses, motions and complaints. They may also assist with legal research, review professional legal journals and perform other secretarial duties. These secretaries typically work full-time in an office setting, although virtual assistant opportunities may be available.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Varies, minimum of associate's degree typically required
Degree Fields Law, legal secretary/assistant, paralegal
Certification Certification is voluntary but often required for employment
Experience 2-3 years experience typically required
Key Skills Excellent interpersonal, organizational and writing skills; proofreading skills and the ability to work under pressure, knowledge of law and government practices, ability to type at least 65 words per minute, proficiency in Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Outlook
Salary (2014) $42,770 per year (Median wage)

Sources: Job postings (August 2015), U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net OnLine.

Step 1: Acquire Training

While a degree is not always required for legal secretary positions, the skills garnered though educational and/or certification programs prove to be valuable and necessary assets for a career in this field. Individuals seeking these secretarial positions need to be adept at communicating, typing and writing, and proficient with various software programs. Classes in speech, communications, English, writing and computer technology completed in degree programs help develop all these skills. Specific degree programs in legal assisting and programs specifically designed for paralegal studies provide coursework in legal writing, research and terminology and discuss various legal forms.

Step 2: Seek Employment Opportunities

Most employers hire certified legal secretaries who have at least two to three years of previous. As such, those who are new to the field and have no prior secretarial experience generally begin in entry-level office positions within a law firm and advance positions as experience is gained. Once a position as a legal secretary is obtained, he/she will perform a wide range of secretarial duties including preparing legal paperwork, scheduling meetings, making travel arrangements, handling daily mail and answering the telephone.

Success Tip

  • Gain work experience in a legal field of interest. On occasion, employers need to hire certified legal secretaries with work experience in a specific legal field. This may include defense litigation, worker's compensation, real estate or international trade. To increase job opportunities, individuals can seek training and/or employment in one of those areas to acquire the knowledge and experience needed for that specialty.

Step 3: Earn Certification

Several certification options are provided for legal secretaries. The National Association for Legal Secretaries (NALS) offers numerous certification opportunities including the Accredited Legal Secretary (ALS), Professional Legal Secretary (PLS) and Professional Paralegal (PP) credentials. Each certification has specific eligibility and experience requirements, as well as individual examinations that must be passed to obtain the credential.

Legal Secretaries International offers the Certified Legal Secretary Specialist credential in specific legal fields, such as criminal law, business law, probate, intellectual property and civil litigation. To obtain this certification, one must meet eligibility requirements and successfully complete an examination.

Success Tip:

  • Keep certification current. The NALS requires that certified legal secretaries meet continuing education requirements to maintain their certification. These requirements vary by credential, but typically include attending educational sessions or activities in the field.

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