The legal secretary is the crucial support behind every solicitor, barrister or legal executive. They are the ones that produce a range of documents, supporting information and other letters to allow others to do their jobs. But how do you become a legal secretary?
What does the role entail?
For someone who has a methodical approach, an interest in the law and the ability to handle the pressure of being a secretary, then working as a legal secretary is the ideal role. The job is to offer administrative support and services for legal executives, lawyers and solicitors as well as ensuring the legal office runs smoothly. The job is about freeing up time and resources for your employer or manager to concentrate on their core role.
Some of the jobs you might be asked to do include:
- Creating and operating the office filing system
- Creating various legal documents including appeals, summonses and subpoenas
- Handling incoming and outgoing calls
- Scheduling meetings and keeping calendars organised
- Various administrative tasks including photocopying documents, handling invoices and ordering stationery
To become a legal secretary, you don’t need to have a full degree, but you will need some industry standard training such as a Legal Secretary Course so you have the foundations of knowledge for the role. There are various different types of these courses available that will teach you both the legal knowledge and practical skills to be a qualified, professional legal secretary.
Some of the basics that will be included in a good quality legal secretary course will include practical legal secretary skills that are based on the department functions and procedures. These will include criminal and civil litigation, commercial and corporate law and also family law and wills.
You will also learn practical skills that will be needed in the role. These can include production, presentation and engrossment of legal documentation, proofreading these documents and the correct completion and processing of legal forms. You will also learn solid secretarial skills such as audio and touch typing, time recording and invoicing and computing skills with common software such as Microsoft Office, Outlook and Word.
Skills you will need
As well as the basic legal secretary qualifications you will want to embark on the role, there are also some other skills that you will want to work on to offer potential employers.
Good computer literacy is always a benefit. While your training will often cover the main types of software that you might use, it never hurts to familiarise yourself with other online software. Even if you don’t find the need to use that particular software, knowledge of it can be applied to something else and this is a benefit.
Being versatile and adaptable to your daily work is another good skill. Legal practices have some routines and processes but there is also the need to be flexible and to go with what the daily requirements may be. The ability to work under pressure is also important as there will be lots of deadlines and requirements to have things done at a certain point, usually for court cases.
Good time management is also a useful skill. You may be given a list of jobs to do and a general deadline – it is up to you to best manage your time to get things done. Legal secretaries are often left to work through tasks without constant oversight and you may need to work as part of a team as well.
When you first start, career progression may not be the most pressing question, but it is good to know where you could go in the future. There are two main routes – one within the legal profession and one outside it.
The secretarial skills you learn can be applied to different industries and this means you can move to work in another profession if you want. You can also work in administrative and clerical roles in different parts of the legal systems such as working in a court or offering legal services within a business.
Often legal secretaries become personal assistants or take further qualifications to eventually become lawyers and solicitors in their own right. There are lots of options open once you have the basic qualifications and some experience behind you.