Legal secretaries are a critical part of helping a law firm run smoothly. If you have ever considered a career as a legal secretary, read below to find out more.
A career as a legal secretary can be fast-paced, exciting, and extremely rewarding. As a legal secretary, you will work alongside attorneys in various professional settings such as law offices, government agencies, or courthouses and provide the critical support needed to help ensure success. The ideal person is well-organized, has good communication skills, and is detail oriented. Once you have entered the profession, you will find endless opportunities for advancement and professional growth.
Every day, people look for ways to start the path to getting hired as a legal secretary, and many options exist to obtain the necessary qualifications. Here we will tell you everything you need to know about this excellent career path, including how you can start your own journey to becoming a legal secretary and the average salary you will make.
What Is a Legal Secretary?
People often confuse the term “legal secretary” with “paralegal,” but in fact, they are two different types of jobs with different duties and qualifications. A legal secretary performs various administrative tasks to support lawyers’ daily workload. Sometimes they are referred to as administrative assistants or legal assistants.
Contrarily, a paralegal has more extensive knowledge of the law and legal matters than a legal secretary may have but does not quite meet the educational qualifications to be considered a lawyer. Paralegals will have more involvement in preparing cases, completing research, and interacting with clients than legal secretaries. They must have much more extensive legal knowledge.
Many legal secretaries expand their education and continue with their career paths to become paralegals. To learn more about the qualifications and certifications required for a paralegal, visit the National Paralegal Association. This site provides all the information about education, certification, and exams.
What Does a Legal Secretary Do?
A legal secretary performs numerous essential and invaluable tasks to support the lawyers for which they work. Without them, a law office could not run effectively. Typical duties include:
- Typing correspondence from dictation.
- Responding to client inquiries and directing them to the right place.
- Completing legal forms.
Legal secretaries also perform other types of clerical tasks such as answering phones and emails, arranging meetings, photocopying, and occasional legal research. These tasks help the lawyers and paralegals focus more on their queue of legal cases and managing their clients rather than on day-to-day administrative duties.
Without legal secretaries, a law office could not run efficiently. Often serving as the initial point of contact for a law office, a legal secretary must be well-spoken, confident, and informed about all aspects of the business.
Types of Legal Secretaries
Many types of legal secretaries exist depending on the firm they work in and the kinds of legal matters they handle.
Typically, legal secretaries will work in one of the following types of environments:
- Law Firms
- Corporate Legal Departments
- Public Interest Forms
- Government Agencies
The primary job tasks for each legal environment remain similar. However, you may need to learn additional skills to support the legal specialization of your employer. For example, a legal secretary in a personal injury law firm would need to know more in-depth about these types of lawsuits than a legal secretary who supports a corporate real estate lawyer.
Salary of Legal Secretaries
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for a legal secretary in 2021 was $47,710, which equates to $22.94 an hour.
Legal secretaries with the most experience and education can make upwards of $75,000 or more per year. The top-paying industries for legal secretaries include Natural Gas Distribution, Cable and Other Subscription Programming, and Scientific Research. Some of these legal secretaries make $80,000 per year or more.
The areas with the most employed legal secretaries include Legal Services, Investment Funds, and State Governments. Most secretaries in these industries made $49,000 to $53,000 per year.
How To Become a Legal Secretary
Several paths exist to obtain the qualifications to become a legal secretary, and most of the time, this position does not require a four-year college degree. Usually, only a high-school education is required to start a legal secretary career.
However, although the position does not require advanced education, candidates should have excellent typing, computer, and communication skills. Before applying for legal secretary jobs, make sure your skills are up to date and take extra courses as needed.
Many candidates seek to increase their qualifications and marketability by enrolling in a certificate or training program. Many such options for these exist as well, such as:
- Associates degree programs through online or community colleges
- Self-paced online courses
- Legal Secretary certificate programs
Several organizations exist for interested individuals to obtain these extra qualifications. The National Association for Legal Support Professionals makes a great place to start. You can also do a quick search for “legal secretary certificate programs” to find a list of educational institutions that offer these programs.
Candidates can also look to get their foot in the door of a law office by applying for internships or even by becoming a notary public. Law offices always need to have notary publics available for notarizing legal documents. Becoming a notary could help you get hired by a law firm and open up the door to a legal secretary job.
Where to Find Legal Secretary Jobs
You can search for legal secretary jobs on most regular job posting sites. Some good ones include Indeed.com and ZipRecruiter. A few specialized job search sites also exist, such as iHireLegal and LawJobs.com, which focus specifically on jobs in the legal sector.You can also work with an in-person recruiter or headhunter to find the right legal secretary job for you.