Legal receptionists are the gatekeepers of a law firm or legal department. They work at the front desk in the law firm lobby or waiting area, greeting clients and visitors and answering incoming calls. Since the receptionist is often the first person with whom clients and visitors interact, he or she is important to the image of the firm and must be polished, professional and articulate.
This job is a great way to break into the legal field as receptionists may work in law firms, government offices, corporate legal departments, public interest venues, and courthouses. or law firms. Those who excel are often promoted to other positions within the firm such as legal receptionist supervisor, legal secretary or paralegal. Legal receptionists also have the opportunity to network with all levels of personnel within the law firm – from copy room staff to senior partners - as well as clients, opposing counsel, legal vendors and other visitors.
Legal receptionist duties vary with the work environment and type of practice. In smaller offices, the legal receptionist may also double as a legal secretary for one or more attorneys. Typical legal receptionist duties include:
- Greeting clients and visitors and answering visitor inquiries
- Answering and routing incoming calls on a multi-line telephone system
- Scheduling and routing clients
- Maintaining and scheduling conference rooms
- Maintaining the waiting area, lobby or other public areas
- Serving coffee or tea to guests
- Ordering supplies
- Scanning, photocopying, faxing and filing documents
- Collecting and routing mail and hand-delivered packages
- Verifying employee identification and issuing visitor passes
In smaller firms, the legal receptionist may handle additional administrative duties such as billing, data entry, word processing, establishing new case files and drafting simple correspondence.
A high school diploma is generally required. Some employers may prefer some formal office education or training as well as experience in a law office. Many employers provide on-the-job training.
Legal receptionists must possess excellent interpersonal and customer service skills to communicate with senior level attorneys, partners, clients, opposing counsel, court reporters, vendors, staff, and others. They must also have the ability to operate multi-line telephone systems and office equipment such as computers, printers, scanners, copiers and video conferencing equipment.
Strong spelling and grammar skills are important in taking effective messages and drafting correspondence and reports. Familiarity with legal terms and jargon and an understanding of various office forms and legal documents is also crucial to the job. Some legal receptionists, particularly those employed in small law firms, must also be familiar with word processing, spreadsheet, database and billing platforms.
Since legal receptionists are often a visitor’s first business contact with the firm or company, a professional appearance and polished demeanor are important. Other personal traits necessary to the job are:
- Respect for confidentiality and discretion
- Attention to detail
- Positive, upbeat attitude
- Patience in dealing with difficult visitors
Most legal receptionists work a standard 40-hour work week, although occasional overtime may be required. Since receptionists rarely travel or work weekends or evenings, this occupation provides an excellent balance for students, parents, and others with significant responsibilities outside the workplace. Job-sharing and other flexible job arrangements are available with some employers.
The demands of a busy law office and interaction with difficult personalities and tight deadlines can create a stressful work environment. Since legal receptionists often sit for long periods and spend a lot of time keyboarding, they can experience eyestrain or repetitive motion ailments such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
Legal receptionist salaries vary based on firm size, geographic location, experience, and other factors. The median hourly wage of receptionists (in all industries) in May 2015 was $20.77. Because legal receptionists are specialized, legal receptionists tend to earn more than receptionists as a whole. In small firms and rural areas, inexperienced legal receptionists may begin at minimum wage. On the high end, legal receptionist supervisors in New York or Los Angeles can earn over $43,200, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The middle 50 percent earned between $15.94 and $27.76. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $12.86, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $35.05. Annual salaries ranged between $26,760 and $72,890.
Legal receptionists in busy law practices often earn income above their base salary through overtime hours.
Employment is projected to grow faster than the average for receptionists, according to the Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Job growth, coupled with the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force, will generate a large number of job openings for receptionists, the BLS reports.