The legal secretary is coming under a category within the legal profession. They tend to be assisting lawyers. This is usually the job description for a legal secretary working in the United States. Sometimes larger firms may place managerial duties on a legal secretary. The duties of a legal secretary are similar to that of a paralegal since the legal secretary will have to collect the necessary information required for a particular case or the case they are assisting. A person who carries out the same duties in the UK is called a paralegal.
Legal Secretary Job
The duties of a legal secretary will include in assisting preparing and filing the necessary documents related to a case and that may be appeals or motions. In the United States, there is no specific degree or specialized background required to be a legal secretary. A person looking into this profession must through with the legal procedures since that is one of the basic requirements looked out for. The salary for this profession might come around $21.80 per hour.
Skills Required to be a Legal Secretary :
A legal secretary is a secretary who is well versed with legal knowledge. One of the major skills required is the ability to go through and pay close attention to any details that might seem necessary. Being a secretary means you must have fast and accurate typing skills. A lot of the job will include secretarial duties and this is the reason why this skill is really important. If you aspire to be a legal secretary one must be sussed with the English language and this means that the grammar and punctuation must be on point.
The above-mentioned skills are necessary and will put your application ahead of the others since these are the basic skills required for the job along with having good legal knowledge. Being able to touch type is a skill that is appreciated since an average legal secretary is required to type 70 words per minute. The requirement to be able to type for a legal secretary is higher than in any other profession hence it is important to try and achieve 70 wpm or above.
One must have exemplary business communication skills as mentioned before. Undertake a course if necessary to improve on your punctuation and grammar. One must also be familiar with how to layout letters and other forms of communication in a formal business format.
Learning Word will also help with your career. Going through a basic course will not be sufficient one must be able to mail merge, insert citations and table of contents and track the changes as well. Learning audio transcription will also be helpful. This skill can be developed with a bit of practice but it is a cardinal skill required in this field.
Make sure that your Microsoft skills are top-notch as mentioned before since one is expected to navigate through the nook and corner of this software. This does not only include Word but also Excel, Powerpoint, and Outlook. In case a need arises to create a PowerPoint presentation one must be able to pull a rabbit out of the hat. Outlook is meant for management purposes and Excel might be required for billing time. One’s job will be to help the chief in completing a legal case. With this being said we may look at the duties of a legal secretary.
Duties of a Legal Secretary:
If the lawyers or barristers or attorneys are the big picture the legal secretary is the minor details. Let us look at a scenario if you are a legal secretary working at a district attorney’s office. The day starts early and with making sure the witnesses arrive on time for the trials.
You will have to maintain contact with officers, attorneys, civilian witnesses. Once this is done a legal secretary will help out with preparing the cases for future court hearings or trials.
Preparing a case might include keeping the evidence related in check. The documents necessary might be the fingerprints, the DNA, the body camera, the 911 call. This information is gathered and is ultimately turned over to the defense counsel. A legal secretary will learn to manage different types of cases from family protection, narcotics, gangs and they play a key role with the prosecution team.
They have to coordinate all of the witnesses, have to gather the audiovisual evidence, and put together the details rudiment for a case. It will also include making sure that everybody gets to court on time and is present at the right place in court. These are the basic duties of a legal secretary working at a district attorney’s office.
Questions Faced for Interview for Legal Assistant :
Some of the sample questions while getting interviewed for the post of legal assistant and suitable answers are discussed here.
- One of the questions that might come across is what area of law are you interested in besides the one in which the firm you applied to specializes? When applying to a particular firm you must be familiar with the job description. Also, make sure to keep yourself updated with the attorney or attorneys you will be serving under. This question is formulated to weed out any candidates who might be interested in any other field other than the one the law firm specializes in which is why it is necessary to go through the job description.
- To find out more information about the attorney or attorneys and the firm you may visit the official website of the firm and go through that. Going through the LinkedIn profiles of the attorneys working there will also help in getting a thorough idea of the specializations as well. Phrase the answer in such a way that the interviewer understands your interest aligns with the specializations of the firm.
- A common question encountered is to state your strength and weakness. Try to prepare ahead for this question since it is expected and it prevents you from going for a banal answer. Avoid terms such as “ I am a team player/hard worker” since this is worn out. Try to answer a real weakness that you are currently working on improving since this will be much appreciated by the interviewer and expresses the genuine interest shown by you to work on yourself. Keep in mind while answering this question not to use a weakness that reflects a poor character or a personality trait.
- Another question coming your way is how would you check your work for accuracy? As mentioned before it is mandatory that you have an eye for attention to detail and is accurate. When this question is thrown at you during an interview they will be curious to hear the various ways in which you stay accurate with your work and manifest diligence.
- What attributes do you think are necessary for a legal assistant? To answer this question make sure you highlight your soft skills and why they would make you a good legal secretary. The skills necessary for this role are mentioned before. It would be a highlight if you could take up a course that might help you in showcasing the soft skills necessary. Stating that you have an attention to detail and how you have a way of keeping track of these details is also important.
Salary of a Legal Secretary :
The salary of a legal secretary might vary from state to state and depending on the position opted for. The average salary for entry-level positions might start around $30,000 per year while most of the experienced workers may make up to $ 60,000 per year according to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics 2020. The experience gained from firms is considered very important in this position. The experience law secretaries are paid a good amount. If you can show that you can do well in this field then the firms will value you better.
Summarising the Duties and Job Expectations:
When you are looking into being a legal secretary the duties are more clerical in the sense that it will include managing how a lawyer’s daily routines are run. This will include charting out their day, making sure the meetings don’t clash, preparing the calendar out, making appointments for the client.
Every chip is important in armor and hence lawyers are not the only ones who are responsible for the success of a firm. Legal secretary are also a very important and reputed job. The key is to try to gain as much experience as you can and find out what it is that drives you to take up this position. When the long hours and strenuous days are demanded of you it will always be your interest in this career choice that will keep you going forward.
Can anyone be a legal secretary?
There are a few qualifications to look out for apart from the skills mentioned when trying to apply for the job of a legal secretary. Once a legal secretary completes a year with a firm or has a year of legal experience can take up an exam to be an Accredited Legal Secretary or ALS. The Professional Legal Secretary or PLS is an advanced certificate for legal support professionals that are offered by the National Association of Legal Secretaries.
If a person has specialized in regions such as real estate, business law, civil trial, or probate along with five years of experience in law or law-related experience is eligible for CLSS. The CLSS stands for Certified Legal Secretary Specialist and this is given out by the Legal Secretary International. Although strict schooling or degree is not demanded to get into the postings to be placed or selected into the law firms the certifications are always recommended.
One can either opt for an associate degree that takes 2 years to complete or there is also a 1 or 2-semester certificate that helps you to be familiar with the responsibilities that you will be taking up for this role. Some of the areas that are covered in the legal secretary programs might include legal terminology, law, computers, law office practices, and even word processing. This is so one can get familiar with the daily routine of the job.
Is being a legal secretary a stressful job?
Being a legal secretary is quite stressful since they will be working closely with the lawyers during a case and this might require them to work long hours. They will have to do the management of the daily tasks, prepare the necessary documents and contracts, going through and edit them. They play a key role in a firm and sometimes their finds will have a direct impact on the case handled. Case research is one of the fundamental duties given and this is said to be one of the time-consuming tasks. Be ready to dive in and work long shifts.
What is the basic degree required to be a legal secretary?
A high-school diploma is a basic degree required to be a legal secretary job. But as mentioned before if you gain enough experience in the field of law you can pursue the certifications to apply to reputed firms.
Is being a legal secretary a good career choice?
Yes, once you are experienced in this field you will be valued in a firm. If you can prove the skill sets such as the crucial eye for details, management skills the employers will reward you. They execute the tasks that are essential for the effective functioning of a firm. The reason individuals with the above-mentioned skills are highly coveted is that if a legal secretary messes up it might even affect the honor of the firm and that cause severe damage. This is why it is necessary to gain as much experience as possible since the more experienced you are, the higher the value you receive.
Is there a difference between a legal secretary and a paralegal?
A paralegal is also termed a legal assistant and there is a difference between both the postings although it is not glaringly different. Both the paralegal and a legal secretary job are assigned with the task of assisting the lawyers or the firm they are employed to. A certified paralegal maybe be legal professionals but they are not lawyers. To be a paralegal one must clear the NALA or the National Association of Legal Assistants.