Legal secretaries are different from paralegals or legal assistants in that they need to have a firm grasp on legal proceedings and a strong background in law documentation. Read on to learn about the education required to become and duties performed by a legal secretary.
Legal secretaries perform clerical duties at law firms and other legal offices. Unlike regular secretaries, legal secretaries require extensive knowledge of legal proceedings and documentation. Most workers complete high school and legal secretary training programs or some college courses prior to employment. On-the-job training is commonly needed; and some employers may prefer candidates with professional certification.
|Required Education||High school diploma, college courses may be required|
|Other Requirements||Computer skills, training often necessary, professional certificate may be preferred for some positions|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||-4% (decline) for legal secretaries*|
|Median Salary (2015)||$43,200 annually for legal secretaries*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Job Duties of a Legal Secretary
Legal secretaries often prepare documents, including legal briefs, court subpoenas, spreadsheets and other office-related letters. Many legal secretaries also organize and maintain all legal files kept on-site. Some legal secretaries also maintain electronic-filing databases.
Legal secretaries often provide lawyers with direct assistance, such as helping with research for cases, gathering necessary documents for trials and submitting paperwork to courthouses. Other duties may include scheduling client appointments, answering calls, taking notes during legal meetings and maintaining the firm's legal research references.
Since most law firms and legal offices deal with multiple clients simultaneously, a legal secretary requires the skills to multitask effectively. Strong organizational skills and attention to detail are also essential for this career. Computer skills are required since many legal documents are created and altered electronically. Good communication skills are also necessary to instruct staff members and to address clients. Legal secretaries need to be familiar with legal terminology and government regulations.
Legal secretaries can work in several types of office environments, including legal firms, corporate legal offices, nonprofit organizations and government offices. Most legal secretaries converse directly with attorneys, clerical personnel, courtroom staff members, clients, expert witnesses and commercial vendors. Legal secretaries can also teach new lawyers and paralegals about protocols for filling out and submitting courtroom documents.
Although the BLS showed that regular secretaries enter the profession with little-to-no postsecondary training, employers of legal secretaries prefer applicants who have completed specialized coursework related to the field. Legal secretary certificate and diploma programs are available, and they include such coursework as legal office procedures, civil litigation and legal terminology. Most programs also teach students how to use legal technology, including word-processing programs, court-filing computer systems and transcription software.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected a decline in employment of 4% for legal secretaries from 2014 through 2024, compared to 3% growth for secretaries and administrative assistants in general. The BLS reported an annual median salary of $43,200 for legal secretaries in 2015.
Though much of the training for legal secretaries takes place on the job, some employers prefer those who have had some specific legal secretary training and hold a certificate or diploma. In addition, the BLS notes that there are professional organizations that offer legal secretaries courses that lead to different types of certifications.