The job of a secretary is one everybody seems to be familiar with but what surprises most is what really is involved. So many have found it difficult to come to terms with what being a secretary means, how much more what the job of a legal secretary is. In this post “How to Become a Legal Secretary” we intend to x-ray all you need to know about a legal secretary.
We will give an indebt review of the step by step guide to becoming a legal secretary. What you need to acquire to become one. Possible income, the necessary skills required. We will also see the differences between a legal secretary and a paralegal. You may also wonder about the benefits, then this post is for you.
Table of Contents
Who is a Legal Secretary?
Generally, the word “secretary” is a term used to refer to employees who take care of or handle administrative and clerical functions in an office for a person or an organization. They take records of the meetings/write minutes of a meeting of an organization. He equally writes and answers letters/emails on behalf of the person or organization.
Now you may wonder who a legal secretary is. It refers to one who performs the above-mentioned roles in a law firm or legal establishment. The legal secretaries have sound knowledge of legal proceedings and an established background in law documentation.
What Are The Duties of a Legal Secretary?
Just like any other secretary, he does the general functions of a regular secretary but does extra. This is generally a result of the peculiarity of the court assignments. He requires a good background in legal proceedings and law documentation.
Under listed is a summary of the duties
- He prepares documents such as office-related letters, legal briefs, spreadsheets and court subpoenas.
- A legal secretary organizes and keeps records of legal files.
- He also maintains a database of staff and clients of the legal firm.
- He often assists the lawyers directly through researching for cases.
- In most cases, the legal secretary documents and submits paperwork to courthouses.
- He schedules appointments for clients (with the consent of the lawyer).
- Most times, he answers calls/emails.
- He also takes minutes/notes during meetings in the law firm.
These are just the duties peculiar to a legal secretary which differs them from regular secretaries.
What Skills Are Required To Become A Legal Secretary?
There are some skills required for a legal secretary to function effectively. These are essential skills required to become a legal secretary and they are listed below:
This is a must possess skill if not the most essential skill required. Good knowledge of Microsoft packages – Word, Excel, Publisher, Database etc. is essential to carry out basic functions in the office. As the duties of a legal secretary include electronic drafting and alteration of legal documents, computer skill is very important.
Effective Multitasking Skills
The ability to multitask is essential because most law firms deal with numerous clients at the same time. Where there are multiple clients trooping in at the same time, the first person they meet in the office is the legal secretary. This means he/she will have much in his hand to deal with. So, he needs to multitask effectively to function optimally.
Read: Complete Guide on How to Become an Art Therapist
Good Communication Skills
A legal secretary ought to be sound
communication-wise. That is to say, there should be soundness in both written and spoken English. Since his job description includes writing and reading minutes of meetings and other proceedings, good communication skill is a must possess. This skill is also essential in addressing the members of staff and as well as direct clients.
He is expected to be a good writer because the job demands the writing of documents and filing calendars of events. In doing these, he assists the lawyer.
Attention to Detail
The ability to pay maximum concentration at all times in all things is an inexcusable skill that a legal secretary ought to possess. Paying maximum attention to typographical errors as well as proofreading typed documents and emails.
The attention to detail skill comes to play when the lawyer works to meet deadlines. At this point, there usually comes so much haste and mistakes abound. This is where the secretary displays his prowess to ensure there are no loopholes in the job his legal firm does.
The legal secretary must be a good organizer or say, planner. At times, he is poised with serving clients with notifications about court proceedings. He ensures that he organizes the documents and arrange them properly for the attorney to easily locate them in the courtroom.
Familiarity with Legal Terms
For a legal secretary to function successfully without having issues with his boss, he needs to familiarize himself with most legal terms. The legal secretary should understand involuntarily most legal terms. He should as well be familiar with legal documents and court procedures.
Although this skill is not a prerequisite for employment, it is necessary to retain his job. So, he should as soon as possible understand this and develop this skill without delay.
Although this comes last on the list, it is actually not the least to possess of the Skills Required to Become a Legal Secretary. In all offices, even the regular secretary is aware of the confidentiality of the office affairs. Therefore, he must keep whatever happens in the office away from friends and family.
Discussions with clients are confidential and ought not to be made known to a third party. It is his duty to ensure this. Most times the legal secretary possesses all documents of the staff and clients. This makes his work more demanding and as such he is bound to never let open what he hears from staff and clients or what he reads from the office.
NB: The skills required to become a Legal Secretary are so many and not limited to these. These are solely the opinions of the author and improvements are welcome where necessary.
What Are The Requirements to Become a Legal Secretary?
There are little or no academic requirements just like a regular secretary. But most times, legal firms choose applicants with specialized degrees that relate to the field. Possibly a bachelor or diploma in Computer Science, English Language, Library science, office practice and the likes.
There are also available certifications and degrees and diplomas are equally available. Some courses exists also such as:
- Legal office procedures
- Civil litigation
- Legal terminology etc.
- Professional certificates are necessary to attain some positions
- Computer Skills
Where can a Legal Secretary Work?
He can get a job in any of the following
- Legal firms
- Government offices
- Corporate Law offices and
- Non-Governmental organizations/non-profit Organisations.
The legal secretary could as well assist in teaching new lawyers and paralegals about the protocols and processes of filing out/submitting courtroom documents.
How Much Does A Legal Secretary Earn?
The amount is dependent on the country of residence and other factors. On average, a legal secretary earns about $47,000 annually according to The U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS).
What is the difference between a Legal Secretary and a Paralegal?
A paralegal is a non-licensed attorney who has a broad understanding of the law and practice as well as legal issues. They also perform administrative duties in the law firm. A legal secretary takes care of or handles administrative and clerical functions in a law firm for a person or the entire law firm.
Step By Step Guide on How to Become a Legal Secretary
Some factors are considered and these factors are essential as well to become a legal secretary. In other to reach your full potential and to meet your set goals, the following guides are to be put in place.
Here is the Step By Step Guide to Become a Legal Secretary.
Earn a High School Diploma/Post-Secondary School Diploma
To get employed, a high school diploma is essential, though not compulsory. It gives the employer the impression that the applicant is focused and goal-oriented and really knows what he wants.
The next thing a diploma does is, it covers coursework in related skills and fields. So obtaining a diploma is a feat every intending legal secretary needs to achieve.
Get Professional Certificate
As stated earlier, there are no compulsory educational requirements. It is equally important to acquire them, because, most law firms prefer to employ graduates or those with professional certificates.
Most legal secretaries enrol in full-time or part-time studies to get membership certificates from professional bodies.
Start as a Regular Secretary
It is generally advised to begin as a regular secretary, this way, you will get first-hand experience in administrative and clerical functions. Six months or more is equally enough to achieve this feat.
Another means of getting experience is by working as an intern. This is obviously one major way of acquiring the requisite experience.
Make a Solid/Convincing Résumé
The importance of solid/convincing Résumé when looking out for opportunities cannot be overemphasized. Your Résumé is your introduction of yourself to your possible employer especially when you won’t be available for an oral interview.
In your résumé, add your work experiences and specialities as well as training undergone during those times. Never forget to have your skills included in the Résumé as they are the point of attraction to whoever will be reading your Résumé.
In this post, we have examined all that you need to function effectively if you consider it a career worth undertaking. Nevertheless, no man is an island, you can as well add your contributions in the comment section.