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How to Become a Legal Secretary

Do you have exceptional written and verbal communication skills? Are you well versed in standard legal procedures and terminology? If so, a great career choice for you might be a legal secretary.

Legal secretaries provide administrative support in a law office. They handle a variety of daily tasks such as arranging meetings, scheduling conferences, directing phone calls, and maintaining office inventory. As a legal secretary, you must have a good understanding of legal practices and how a law firm runs as you will typically also perform legal-specific tasks, including preparing legal papers and correspondence, when assisting with cases and litigation. 

Legal secretaries type court minutes and must be excellent typists and have strong listening skills. An eye for detail is important as they edit and proofread legal documents. You will need good computer skills and a strong knowledge of legal documents and terminology. To excel as a legal secretary, exceptional organizational skills and good time management are essential, as is a high level of communication skills.

Sample job description

[Your Company Name] is searching for an experienced legal secretary. We are in need of a remarkably responsible candidate with exceptional organizational skills and communication skills, who is available to work full time. A legal secretary is responsible for preparing court paperwork, transcribing and proofreading legal documents, collecting documents, and managing records and calendars making sure everything is in order for the attorney. You may need to have an associate’s degree in legal studies or a related field, with the ability to have phenomenal typing skills. Successful legal secretaries have excellent oral and written communication skills, are detail-oriented, have professional mannerisms, work well under pressure, and are familiar with legal terminology. If you have the experience and the skill sets needed for this position then a secretarial position at our company could be the right fit.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Enter and process docket cases, notices of hearings, postponements, reports, and other data into computer files
  • Transcribe legal dictation, meeting minutes, conferences, and interviews
  • Log and schedule administrative hearings
  • Maintain attorney calendars
  • Prepare trial notebooks, exhibits, documents, and other materials for case presentation
  • Receive visitors, answer phones, schedule meetings, and perform general secretarial duties

Education and experience

This position requires an associate degree in law or a related field; a bachelor’s degree is preferable, as is some law firm experience. 

Required skills and qualifications

  • Highly organized
  • Skilled at multitasking
  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills
  • Can work with minimal guidance and oversight
  • Proficient in MS Office Suite applications
  • Knowledge of the law and law firm processes a plus

Preferred qualifications

  • Associate’s degree in legal studies or a related field
  • Paralegal certification
  • Strong interpersonal skills

Typical work environment

Legal secretaries spend most of their time working in an office environment at a law firm office working on legal documents for the attorneys. There can be special situations where you will need to travel outside of the office to gather information needed for the attorney or travel to trials or dispositions. This environment can sometimes be extremely stressful, so you will need to work well under those circumstances. Secretaries work the regular full-time hours and can work extra hours if new information comes in at the last minute. 

Typical hours

The typical work hours for a legal secretary are from 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday, in an office setting. However, longer or different hours can be necessary, especially when nearing a deadline. 

Available certifications

Not every legal secretary will need a certification, but it can help you stand out from the rest of the applicants. Here are popular legal secretary certifications that you can receive:

  • Professional Legal Secretary (PLS). Obtaining this certification proves that you are exceptional in the field and have a high level of professionalism when it comes to being a legal secretary. It shows that you have the office skills needed, professionalism, you are motivated, and you know how to prepare legal documents. 
  • Certified Paralegal/Certified Legal Assistant (CP/CLA). This certification is earned by paralegals who have already passed the certified paralegal exam. It is recognized by the American Bar Association and State Bars.
  • Word 2010 Certification. This certification is an important one to have as most of the work is done on a computer. This certification proves that you can work at least 80 percent of the features Microsoft Office Word 2010 has to offer. 
  • Specialist Certificate: Legal (SC:L). This certification proves that you are familiar with legal settings and understand the terminology used in the legal system.

Career path

The legal secretary position generally falls between traditional secretary (performing essential administrative duties), and paralegal (using knowledge of the legal system to perform similar responsibilities). It entails first obtaining an associate degree or higher (preferably in law or a related field). Beyond that, legal secretary certification programs are offered in many places and can help progress this career path. 

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 23-1011

2020 Employment345,600
Projected Employment in 2030387,000
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 12% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift41,400 increase

According to the Center for Advanced Legal Studies, a growing focus is tech savviness in the paralegal and legal secretary positions. Unsurprisingly, with the growth of e-discovery, among other aspects, law firms and other legal employers are looking for staff with strong technology skills.