|Recommended Degree Level||Certificate or Higher|
|Number of Jobs, 2012||216,730|
|Annual Job Growth Rate||1.7%|
|Job Openings per Year (est.)||3,940|
What's needed: In general, law firms do not require legal secretaries to hold a four-year degree. However, they do expect secretaries in these positions to have completed a legal secretary training program or to have taken classes to familiarize themselves with the legal field. Secretaries who hold a B.A. in legal studies or pre-law are seen as particularly desirable job candidates.
What you study:
You're likely to study all of the following in a legal secretary training program:
- Law Office Procedures
- Litigation Procedures
- Judicial Process and Behavior
- Legal Citations
- Legal Transcription
- Business Math
- Legal Writing
A brief introduction to the legal secretary occupation. Produced for the US Dept. of Labor.
A Day in the Life
You get to the law firm where you work about 30 minutes before the attorneys with whom you work arrive. As on most days, you check phone messages, emails and faxes. You see that an expert witness has responded to an inquiry about whether or not she is available to testify at an upcoming court date. You also notice that a client has called to ask about his attorney's defense strategy. You'll get in touch with the expert witness once your morning has settled down, but you'll need to pass the client's question to his attorney as soon as the attorney arrives.
As the attorneys you work with begin to arrive, you greet them and distribute their mail. You've already scanned the mail to ensure that you're not wasting their time with solicitations and other junk items. After you've helped the attorneys settle in and have given them any necessary phone messages, you ask if any attorneys need help preparing legal documents or letters. One attorney asks you to draft a letter to a client and another attorney asks you to draft a court motion for an ongoing case she's handling.
Before you return to your desk to begin work on the documents, you stop by the receptionist's desk to see if any walk-in clients have come in. There's only one potential client waiting to see a lawyer, so you spend a few minutes chatting with her and determine the lawyer who might be most interested in her case. You let the receptionist know and head back to your desk to work on the documents.
You'll finish the two documents by the end of the day but are also busy answering client phone calls, talking to investigators and expert witnesses, preparing invoices and checking legal citations in a court report. You've had a busy day, but you get to leave when the office closes knowing that you've done your best to assist the attorneys and clients with whom you work.
Certifications and Licensing
While no official certification is needed to become a legal secretary, many professionals who work in this field choose to study for a certificate through either the National Association of Legal Secretaries (NALS) or Legal Secretaries International (LSI). Secretaries who want to work in a specific type of firm may gain certification in criminal, intellectual, property, estate or family law from LSI.
Full-time versus part-time:
The majority of legal secretaries work full-time schedules. As a legal secretary, you are responsible for providing a high level of support to a firm's attorneys and are expected to be at work at least during regular office hours. You may be required to work overtime when a firm is handling a particularly important or difficult case.
You'll spend most of your time working in an office in a law firm. However, you may be called upon occasionally to attend court with an attorney. You may also be required to bring documents to court for an attorney if your office does not have a receptionist or courier.
- U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook for Secretaries and Administrative Assistants: The Bureau of Labor Statistics website offers wide, general information about careers in secretarial work including employment projections and average salaries. While some of this information pertains specifically to legal secretaries, individuals who are interested in working in this field should also check more qualitative sources to gain a well-rounded understanding of this occupation.
- National Association of Legal Secretaries: The NALS website provides a wide variety of information about training and advancement in this field. Prospective legal secretaries can learn about earning a certificate through NALS. The site lists many regional conferences and events that both beginning and experienced legal secretaries can attend.
- Legal Secretaries International: LSI's website features information about association membership and education and certification in specialized legal fields. Legal secretaries of all experience levels will find the LSI job boards particularly useful. New legal professionals can find a mentor through the site to help them as they embark on a legal secretary career.