Career Definition for a Legal Secretary
A legal secretary prepares legal correspondence and documents. These documents can include legal motions, summons, briefs and subpoenas. Legal secretaries schedule depositions, inspections, meetings and hearings. They maintain file systems, route incoming mail, ensure accuracy in correspondence and answer phones. They are also required to communicate with other legal professionals such as attorneys, legal experts and other legal staff. Additionally, legal secretaries may be responsible for helping with legal research and reviewing legal journals, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
|Required Education||Certificate or degree in legal studies|
|Necessary Skills||Detailed oriented; time management; typing; dictation; knowledge of basic legal procedures, state-specific rules and legal terminology|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$43,200|
|Job Outlook (2014-2024)*||4% decline|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
If you're interested in a career as a legal secretary, you should first complete 1-2 years of college education. Many community colleges and private trade schools offer legal secretary certificate programs or degree programs in legal studies. Typical courses in a legal secretary program can include legal research and legal applications. In addition to education, legal secretaries who possess the education and training requirements can earn credentials through the NALS and Legal Secretaries International. These credentials include Accredited Legal Secretary, Professional Legal Secretary and Certified Legal Secretary Specialist.
A legal secretary must be detail-oriented and deadline-driven. Legal secretaries must also possess excellent typing and dictation skills. They must also have knowledge of basic legal procedures, legal terminology and state and federal court filing rules.
Find schools that offer these popular programs
- Court Reporting
- Legal Administrative Assistant or Secretary
- Legal Assistant or Paralegal
Career and Economic Outlook
The median annual salary in 2015 for a legal secretary was $43,200, according to the BLS. Legal secretaries in large metropolitan areas such as New York, Washington D.C. and San Francisco tend to earn higher salaries because of the increased amount of large corporations and private legal practices that exist in larger cities. The BLS states that a 4% decline in employment is projected for legal secretaries from 2014-2024.
Alternate Career Options
Some skills necessary to become a legal secretary will help prepare you for jobs in other areas.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant
Most of these professionals earn associate's degrees in paralegal studies or have bachelor's degrees in other fields with a certificate in paralegal studies. They fulfill many support functions for lawyers, such as organizing files, drafting legal documents and conducting research. The BLS predicted an 8% job increase for these professionals from 2014-2024, which was about as fast as average. In 2015, paralegals and legal assistants earned an annual median salary of $48,810, per the BLS.
Claims Adjuster, Examiner and Investigator
A slower-than-average employment growth of 3% was projected by the BLS for these professionals, from 2014-2024. Although not always required, many adjusters, examiners and investigators have 2- or 4-year degrees or some insurance-related work experience. Working with insurance companies, they inspect property damage, gather information, review claims and authorize payments, sometimes checking with legal counsel for input on claims. In 2015, the BLS reported an annual median wage of $62,980 for this group of professionals.