Legal Secretary: Career Summary, Employment Outlook, and Educational Requirements

Research what it takes to become a legal secretary. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average wages and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Legal Administrative Assistant degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Legal Secretary?

Legal secretaries typically work for lawyers or in legal offices. They perform clerical tasks, such as answering phones, taking messages, scheduling appointments, scheduling meetings, preparing documents such as memos or letters, and filing documents. They may also assist lawyers with trial preparation, gather relevant files or materials pertinent to a case. Legal secretaries need to be familiar with office procedures, maintain client confidentiality, and may also need to learn some legal terms related to the field of law they work in.

Degree Required Certificate or associate's degree typically needed
Education Field of Study Legal secretary
Key Responsibilities Prepare legal documents for signature, service and/or filing in court; collect, organize, copy and compile client records; type correspondence and other documents and prepare for mailing; answer phones, take messages and schedule appointments
Certification Optional professional certification is available
Projected Job Outlook (2014-2024) -4%*
Median Salary (2015) $43,200*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is the Career Summary of a Legal Secretary?

Legal secretaries work in law offices, corporations or wherever attorneys may be employed. In this career, you are expected to carry out your duties under the guidance of lawyers and paralegals. Primarily, you will assist lawyers with preparing legal documents pertaining to court cases and meetings. This might include researching and verifying information stated in legal briefs and composing and typing subpoenas, appeals and summonses.

In addition, you might be in charge of scheduling appointments for witnesses, organizing law libraries, handling office correspondence and mailing or faxing documents to courthouses and attorneys. You could even train new attorneys in document preparation. Due to the fast-paced environment found in many law offices, you might work under pressure to meet tight deadlines.

What Is the Employment Outlook?

Job opportunities for legal secretaries, were expected to decrease by 4% from 2014 through 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). As of 2015, legal secretaries earned a median annual salary of $43,200, according to the BLS.

What Educational Requirements Must I Complete?

Like all secretaries, legal secretaries must have office skills along with well-developed oral and written communication skills. In addition, however, they must possess knowledge of legal terminology. To hone these vital skills, you should complete formal legal secretarial or legal administrative assistant programs, which you can find in community colleges and vocational schools around the country. They offer subjects such as legal office procedures, machine transcription, business communications, litigation, civil investigation, accounting and word processing. You will need to devote between one and two years to an educational training program. Upon graduation, you will receive either a certificate of completion or an associate's degree.

With formal training and some years of work experience behind you, you can become certified through organizations such as Legal Secretaries International, which grants the Certified Legal Secretary Specialist designation, and the NALS (formerly the National Association of Legal Secretaries), which awards the Accredited Legal Secretary (ALS) and the Professional Legal Secretary (PLS) designations. These credentials demonstrate your job proficiency and boost your professional image. The certification process requires that you successfully pass examinations that focus on areas such as ethics, business law, office procedures, written communications and legal knowledge.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Receptionists and secretaries perform many duties that are comparable to those legal secretaries perform. They may be responsible for answering phones, greeting clients, scheduling appointments, preparing documents and filing. Paralegals also perform some comparable tasks, although they are typically focused more on assisting lawyers as they prepare a case for a client. Court reporters work in courthouses and transcribe word for word courtroom proceedings. While receptionists and secretaries may not need any education beyond a high school diploma, paralegals typically hold an associate's degree, and court reporters generally need a certificate.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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