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Legal Secretary Job Description, Career as a Legal Secretary, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training Associate’s degree

Average Salary $51,000 per year

Job Outlook Very good

Basic Job Description

Legal secretaries typically work for a law firm or court house and specialize in producing legal documents such as subpoenas, motions, complaints, and summonses. They produce these documents for lawyers, judges and court hearings and perform other administrative and secretarial tasks. Legal secretaries will schedule appointments and court hearings, fax, file, sort and distribute legal documents and paperwork, answer and transfer phone calls, and collect information for attorneys such as addresses, telephone numbers, social security numbers, and other information needed for court cases. Secretaries are often required to maintain everything going on in the office to make sure lawyers can easily do their jobs and have everything they need available for them.

Education and Training Requirements

Legal secretaries must have experience working in the administrative and secretarial field. An Associate’s degree in accounting is typically what someone looking to work in the administrative field would go to school for. Someone who wants to be a legal secretary should take classes that focus on legal terms, laws, political practices, court orders, and other legal information. Some schools provide accounting or administrative students with classes that focus on duties performed by legal secretaries.

Legal secretaries usually start off working a receptionist position at a law firm or court house. Receptionists perform basic administrative duties such as answering phones, faxing documents, and understanding how the office is run. A receptionist position at a law firm or court house will also allow them to develop an understanding for how the legal process is performed. Over time, receptionists may advance to secretarial positions where they are put in charge of producing documents and keeping the office environment under control.

Getting the Job

Legal secretaries need to have excellent written and oral communication skills. Secretaries need to know how to operate word processing systems and keep documents and paperwork well organized and securely filed. Secretaries in the legal field need to understand laws and legal terminology in order to effectively produce properly worded documents that are professional and well written.

Legal secretaries need to be able to effectively communicate with lawyers and judges and maintain a professional demeanor toward clients. They must also understand and respect the importance of confidentiality, particularly when personal information is involved and members of court cases are accused of violent crimes. Secretaries will occasionally have to speak with clients and obtain information from them, so it is important for them to stay professional and confidential while providing excellent customer service and making sure they are comfortable.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development

Legal secretaries can work for independent law firms or for large city and state court houses. Most legal secretaries will advance or develop their career by moving on to work for a court house on a much larger scale. Over time, some legal secretaries may advance to handling the entire administrative and office department of a law firm. They will observe receptionists and other office workers to make sure they are handling their duties properly and everything is flowing together to keep the office running smoothly. The more organized a legal secretary is, the happier lawyers and judges will be because they will be able to easily perform their job.

Some legal secretaries may also find that they work better for specific types of law firms depending on their experience and education. Some may specialize in specific types of cases such as real estate, health care or criminal law and continue to work for larger law firms specializing in these fields.

Many law firms are looking for legal secretaries to provide services to lawyers instead of expecting them to perform them on their own. Employment outlook for legal secretaries is on the rise, although the Bureau of Labor Statistics also expects there to be plenty of competition as more and more accounting students find themselves looking toward working in the legal field.

Working Conditions and Environment

Legal secretaries spend most of their time working in the office of a law firm where they maintain office tasks as well as produce legal documents for lawyers and collect information from clients. Secretaries rarely work odd hours or over time and typically have a 40 hour workweek. In some cases, secretaries may be expected to work after hours to help prepare lawyers for an upcoming case or attend a hearing if needed.

Secretaries must also be able to handle an environment that can become overwhelmingly busy or high stress. Some lawyers book their cases very tight and constantly need the secretary to produce new paperwork or collect new information last minute. Secretaries must be quick on their feet and be able to create important court documents without advance notice.

Salary and Benefits

The average salary for a legal secretary is about $51,000 per year. Salaries will vary according to where a secretary works and how long they have been working in the field. Legal secretaries working for a large law firm or court house will make more than a secretary working for a small, privately owned law firm.

Legal secretaries are almost always full-time employees, and in return receive benefits packages including health insurance, pension plans and vacation and sick leave. Secretaries who work for a law firm may also have the opportunity to receive free or discounted legal care in return for their hard work. Lawyers often rely on legal secretaries for many tasks, and would not be able to run a law firm without their help. Because of the important duties performed by a legal secretary, lawyers treat their secretaries well and make sure they are comfortable doing their job and have everything they need.

Where to Go for More Information

National Association of Legal Assistants
1516 South Boston
Tulsa, OK 74119

Legal Secretaries, Inc.
PO Box 660
Fortuna, CA 95540
(800) 281-2188

Association for Legal Professionals
8159 East 41st Street
Tulsa, OK 74145
(918) 582-5188

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesLaw and Public Service