Legal Secretary

Legal secretaries are similar to administrative secretaries as they may be responsible for office duties and processes including filing, bookkeeping, scheduling, and office management. However, a legal secretary must also be trained to recognize and handle legal documents, and may be required to pursue and process collections, and even be able to notarize official documents. Also, a legal secretary must have respect for handling what may be at times extremely confidential information pertaining legal meetings, transcripts, and testimonies for cases and suits. Discretion is as important in a legal secretary as the qualities of accuracy and organization.

Desirable Qualities

Legal secretaries will benefit from extensive knowledge of software programs, as well as having accurate and rapid typing skills. A simple misplacement of punctuation can lead to a legal nightmare, and slower moving fingers cost time and therefore money to a legal office. Legal secretaries must also be able to multi-task efficiently and effectively as on any given day they may be directly involved in assisting with the preparation and release of notions, complaints, responses, summonses, and subpoenas. Generally, the legal secretary works in conjunction and under the supervision of an attorney, but a knowledge of legal terminology is recommended in the field, as research for quotes, citations, and case histories may be necessary.

Education and Employment

Legal secretaries may be employed in attorney's offices, government agencies, corporations, real estate offices, or non-profit organizations where legal work takes place. The qualifications and education required may vary, but education and training are essential in order to ensure hiring at a comparable salary. The education required for a legal secretary will be varied depending on the location and atmosphere of employment. At times, an Associate's Degree or Bachelor's Degree is necessary, whereas in other cases, although not as often as thirty or forty years earlier, on the job training is the only education required. There are several paralegal course and programs available, and although certification is voluntary as a paralegal is not a licensed profession, there are privately administered tests and exams from a paralegal association that can be taken in order to increase employment opportunities and salary range. The salary range for a legal secretary will depend heavily on location and experience, with entry-level positions receiving salaries comparable to administrative secretaries.

Similarities and Differences

Recently, a debate has begun over the several different types of terminology used to refer to a legal secretary, including legal technician, paralegal, and legal assistant. Generally, however, a paralegal can perform tasks that would be considered billable to clients, whereas legal secretaries do not.

By Barbara Poelle           

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