Legal secretaries, also called administrative assistants, legal assistants or executive assistants, perform the daily clerical functions required for the efficient operation of a legal office. Beyond the usual filing, typing, dictation and phone-answering duties of the secretary, legal secretaries possess specialized skills unique to the legal profession.
Legal secretaries sometimes start out as legal receptionists before moving into a secretarial role. Experienced secretaries are often promoted to senior secretarial positions or paralegal positions within the law firm or organization.
Legal Secretary Duties & Responsibilities
Legal secretaries have a number of administrative duties to support attorneys and the office. On any given day, they may perform duties such as the following:
- Prepare correspondence to various parties
- Type legal documents, including pleadings, motions, briefs, discovery documents, and subpoenas.
- Maintain complex docket systems to track the myriad of legal filing deadlines
- Create and populate spreadsheets
- Index and update pleadings and discovery binders
- Schedule depositions, site inspections, hearings, closings, and meetings
- Draft correspondence and routine legal documents such as deposition notices and legal invoices
Legal secretaries also assist with legal research and communicate with attorneys, experts, opposing counsel, vendors, and other staff.
Legal Secretary Salary
Legal secretary salaries vary depending upon experience, geographic location, and practice setting. Salaries can range from $28,000 for entry-level professionals employed in a small firm to $65,500 for senior legal secretaries employed in a large firm, according to the Internet Legal Research Group.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor also provides salary information. A legal secretary salary varies based on the level of experience, geographical location, and other factors:
- Median Annual Salary: More than $76,500 ($36.78/hour)
- Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $44,730 ($21.5/hour)
- Bottom 10% Annual Salary: More than $27,080 ($13.02/hour)
Education, Training & Certification
While some secretaries in the industry possess no formal training, the largest number of career opportunities exist for formally trained legal secretaries who have completed some post-secondary training or a four-year college degree.
- Education: Legal secretarial programs are offered by community colleges, technical centers, and private career schools and take one to two years to complete.
- Certification: Certification for legal secretaries is a growing trend and may enhance employment opportunities. The National Association for Legal Professionals (NALS) bestows an ALS designation upon legal secretaries who pass a four-hour, three-part examination.
Legal Secretary Skills & Competencies
In addition to formal education, training or certifications, legal secretaries perform better at their jobs when they possess certain additional skills, such as the following:
- Grasp of terminology: Familiarity with legal terminology,
- Familiarity with legal procedure: State and federal court filing rules, basic legal procedure and law office protocol are important for the legal secretary.
- Strong time-management skills: In addition to excellent typing and dictation skills, legal secretaries must be extremely deadline-oriented since missing a filing deadline can result in a default judgment (automatically losing a case).
- Computer skills: As office and legal processes become more automated, legal secretaries must possess excellent computer skills and be proficient with word processing, spreadsheet, legal research, presentation, and time and billing software.
Increased demand for legal services and client-driven efforts to reduce legal costs should continue to create job opportunities for legal secretaries. According to Monster.com’s career advice center, legal secretarial jobs will continue to multiply, particularly in the corporate arena.
The large majority of legal secretaries work in law firms. However, corporate legal departments, the government, public interest firms, and the judiciary also employ legal secretaries.
Legal secretaries typically work a standard, full-time work schedule, although they may need to put in additional work hours before or during a trial.
How to Get the Job
BRUSH UP YOUR SKILLS
The National Association of Legal Professionals is an organization offering professional development by providing continuing legal education, certifications, information, and training to individuals in the legal services industry.
Look at job-search resources like Indeed.com, Monster.com, and Glassdoor.com for available legal secretary positions. You can also visit the career center of your school, the websites of individual law firms or stop by in person to apply to existing job openings.
Comparing Similar Jobs
People interested in becoming a legal secretary also consider the following career paths, listed with their median annual salaries:
- Word processor or typist: $38,740
- Executive secretary: $59,340