Support staff plays a crucial role in the success of any legal team. They handle the day-to-day tasks of the business that allows it to function. One important member of a support staff is a legal secretary. The secretary performs various administrative and clerical duties to help their employer conduct business efficiently and in a professional manner. Keep reading to learn more about a legal secretary.
What Does a Legal Secretary Do?
A legal secretary’s work lays the foundation for the business side of a firm or legal department. They support the lawyers and paralegals they work with by handling basic clerical tasks. The most important part of the position involves maintaining the office daily and keep it running smoothly. While it varies slightly depending on the employer, the standard duties of a law secretary include:
- Answering phones
- Reading emails
- Maintaining schedules for lawyers
- Maintaining the office
- Greeting visitors
- Ordering supplies
- Setting appointments
- Handling filing systems
- Handling mail
- Using office equipment
Secretaries that work in law firms or legal departments also perform tasks specific to the field of law. This can include:
- Drafting legal correspondence
- Drafting legal documents at the direction of the attorney
- Conducting research
- Communicating with attorneys and other legal staff
- Proofreading court documents
Professional Requirements to Become a Legal Secretary
There is no specific professional requirement to become a legal secretary beyond a high school diploma. However, some employers prefer to hire secretaries that have taken law or business administration courses. These courses equip individuals with a general understanding of various office procedures and legal terminology.
Some community colleges and technical centers offer legal secretarial programs, which take one to two years to complete. These programs teach students everything from keyboarding basics to office finances. Students also engage in practical exercises to gain hands-on experience.
Additional Education and Experience
Aspiring secretaries can also earn a Bachelor of Business Administration degree (B.B.A.). A bachelor’s degree program consists of four years of full-time study, and it can help advance one’s career.
Additional Licensing Requirements
While not required, secretaries can earn professional certification. This helps them achieve a higher level of credibility and enhance employment opportunities. One example is the Professional Legal Secretary (PLS) certification.
Secretaries with three years of legal experience or with postsecondary degrees can take the four-part exam. To recertify, secretaries must complete at least 75 hours of continuing legal education courses every five years.
Where Can You Work as a Legal Secretary
You have a few options when it comes to where you can work as a legal secretary. One option is working in a law firm. Corporate legal departments, government agencies, and public interest firms also all employ legal secretaries. These legal professionals spend most of their time in an office, though they may also run errands on behalf of their employer.
How do Legal Secretaries Get Paid
Legal secretaries get paid directly from their employer. They may earn an hourly wage or a salary, though the amount varies widely. When earning hourly pay, employees receive compensation for every hour worked and overtime pay for any hour over 40. Salaried employees receive a fixed amount regardless of how many hours they work. These secretaries generally receive benefits such as sick pay, vacation pay, health insurance, and retirement plans.
Legal Secretary Salary
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the annual median salary for legal secretaries was $44,730 ($21.51/hr) as of 2017. Secretaries falling on the higher end of the pay spectrum – those highly skilled in the legal field – make upwards of $90,000 annually.
Salary ranges vary widely depending on the individual’s education, skill set, certifications, and experience. Geographical location can also play a role in the salary earned.
Employment Outlook for Legal Secretaries
The BLS the employment growth rate for legal secretaries to decline approximately 5% by 2026. Most open positions for secretaries will results from workers retiring or leaving the occupation.
Find a Job as a Legal Secretary
Before starting your job search, gather personal and professional references. Strong letters of recommendation will add merit to the hiring process. You should also tap into networks to get leads on available positions. Use social media and professional networking sites to reach out to family, friends, and former employers. Ask for introductions or referrals to people they know in the legal field.
Check employment-related search engines for open positions. The more popular ones allow you to apply directly to job postings. They may also offer resume posting to increase your chances of finding employment. Another option involves applying for jobs in person. Visit local law firms and legal offices and ask for an application or submit your resume.
|Degree Level||High school diploma or equivalent (some employers prefer at least an associate degree)|
|Degree Field(s)||Law or business administration|
|Key Skills||Interpersonal, detail-oriented, outgoing, written communication, verbal communication, self-motivated, familiar with office equipment|
|Number of Jobs (2016)||185,870|
|5% growth rate|
|Median Salary (2017)||$44,730*|
|On the Job Training||Moderate term of on-the-job training|
|Top Earners||Top earners in the field are generally employed by large recruiting firms|
(*Source: the BLS)