Legal Secretaries Overview
There are a large number of job openings for legal secretaries and applicants with extensive computer software application experience should expect the best opportunities. More and more, legal secretaries are taking on responsibilities usually reserved for professional and managerial staff. Educational paths may vary, however many choose to pursue a 1 to 2-year certificate from legal administrative assistant and secretary programs.
Nature of the Work for Legal Secretaries
The role of the legal secretary has evolved as the reliance of technology continues to expand in the office. Organizational restructuring and office automation have led legal secretaries to increasingly take on duties originally reserved for professional and managerial staff. Despite this, the main responsibilities for legal secretaries have stayed the same.
Firms that have legal secretaries who perform a variety of clerical and administrative duties run more efficiently. Typical duties include planning and schedule appointments and meetings; arranging and maintaining electronic and paper files; perform research; supervise projects; and distribute information through mail services, Web sites, telephone and Email. In some cases, they handle guest arrangements and travel.
Legal secretaries use office equipment and computers to complete duties that used to be handled by managers and supervisors, such as writing correspondence, designing spreadsheets, managing databases and creating reports, presentations and documents. They are responsible for maintaining the stock room and corporate libraries, and thus often negotiate with vendors and purchase supplies.
Executive legal secretaries work for high-level administrators and top executives. They are less restricted to clerical tasks than other legal secretaries and instead spend more of their time focused on information management. More complex procedures are given to executive legal secretaries, such as review incoming reports and memos. They also schedule meetings and maintain agendas for the executive boards.
Legal secretaries differ from other secretaries because they perform highly specialized work such as creating correspondence, legal papers and subpoenas under the direction of a paralegal or attorney. They also assist with legal research and evaluate legal journals. Newly hired lawyers are instructed by legal secretaries on how to prepare documents for submission to the courts. Legal secretaries work in legal firms, and often sit for long periods of time. The majority of their work includes keyboarding, and so it is common to encounter problems of stress, eyestrain and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Most legal secretaries work a full 40-hour week. Approximately 18 percent of secretaries work part-time and others work in temporary positions.
Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Legal Secretaries
Legal secretaries are required to complete specialized training programs that grant 1 to 2-year certificates. This assures that they enter their job knowing the language of the vocation. More often, employers are looking for executive legal secretaries who have a college degree related to the legal business.
Once hired, legal secretaries usually gain more advanced skills through instruction by other employees. Some choose to attend online courses to better understand how to operate new office technologies. Legal secretaries will need to be pursue continuing education as office automation technology continues to evolve.
Excellent typing, grammar, spelling, punctuation and oral communication skills are vital for a legal secretary. Because they often deal with a lot of clients, they must have great customer service and interpersonal skills. Favorable skills for legal secretaries also include good judgment, discretion, initiative and organizational and management ability. Office operations are constantly changing, so a legal secretary who is adaptable and flexible are valued.
The National Association of Legal Secretaries (NALS), Inc. and Legal Secretaries International, Inc both provide designations for legal secretaries. After only one year of experience in the legal field, or after completing an approved training course, individuals may obtain the Accredited Legal Secretary (ALS) designation through a testing process provided by NALS. Legal secretaries may also obtain the title of Professional Legal Secretary (PLS), an advanced certification granted to qualified legal support professionals. The designation of Certified Legal Secretary Specialist (CLSS) is conferred by Legal Secretaries International and is awarded for 5 years of experience in specific areas of law such as civil litigation, criminal law, intellectual property, business and probate law.
Many legal secretaries advance by receiving additional training in the industry. It is common for them to move on to become paralegals.
Top 10 Most Popular Legal Administrative Assistant Schools
1. MTI College, Sacramento (Sacramento, California)
2. College of the Sequoias (Visalia, California)
3. D'Mart Institute (Barranquitas, Puerto Rico)
4. International Business College, East El Paso (El Paso, Texas)
5. Katharine Gibbs School, New York City (New York, New York)
6. Capitol City Careers (Austin, Texas)
7. Hickey College (Saint Louis, Missouri)
8. Harris School of Business, Cherry Hill (Cherry Hill, New Jersey)
9. Centro de Capacitacion y Asesoramiento Vetelba (Arecibo, Puerto Rico)
10. Central Texas Commercial College (Dallas, Texas)
Most Popular Online Legal Administrative Assistant Schools
1. Kaplan University - Online School
2. Ashworth College - Online School
3. American InterContinental University - Online School
4. Saint Leo University Online
5. Bryant and Stratton College - Online School
6. Keiser University - Online School
Employment and Job Outlook for Legal Secretaries
Number of People in Profession
Changing Employment (2008-2018)
Employment is projected to grow about as fast as average (increase 7 - 13%).
Job Opportunities & Competition
Good or favorable job opportunities. Job openings compared with job seekers may be in rough balance.
Of the 4.3 million secretarial jobs, about 244,380 are held by legal secretaries. Legal services is projected to have a moderate growth, resulting in a faster than average employment growth for legal secretaries.
Also contributing to the demand for secretaries is the increase in office automation and organizational restructuring. Email systems, scanners and voice messaging systems will allow legal secretaries to accomplish more tasks in the same amount of time. Automation equipment is also changing the way in which work is distributed in many offices.
Sometimes, a paralegal will perform tasks that were formally completed by legal secretaries. The more that this happens, legal secretaries will begin to support the work of the departments or systems instead of having one legal secretary per manager. This means that legal secretaries will take on more responsibilities and will become increasingly valuable members of the team.
Other opportunities for legal secretaries will arise from those who transfer into other occupations or move into a different profession entirely. Those who have computer software application skills or advanced computer and communication skills will experience the best opportunities. Those with a bachelors degree in legal studies will be in larger demand to take on more complex tasks.
Earnings and Salary for Legal Secretaries
The median annual salary of legal secretaries is $39,860. The highest 10 percent earns more than $63,980, while the lowest 10 percent earn less than $26,330. The middle 50 percent earn between $31,930 and $52,340.
Annual Salary for Legal Secretaries
On average, Legal Secretaries earn $41,080 per year.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook