- What do legal secretaries do?
- Legal secretary career path
- Legal secretary salaries
- Qualifications and training
- Legal secretary skills
- Pros and cons of being a legal secretary
- Legal secretary work life balance
- Typical employers
- Related jobs
Do you enjoy working with the law? Are your organisational skills top notch? If you want a career combining administration and working with the law, a career as a legal secretary could be perfect for you.
What do legal secretaries do?
Legal secretaries work in law firms providing support and organisational assistance to lawyers and other members of the team like paralegals. Since part of your work requires legal knowledge, having a general understanding of legal processes is important. As a legal secretary, you could work in any type of law including commercial, criminal, property, human rights and many more. Since your job deals mostly with the office and administration side, having an in-depth understanding of an area of the law isn’t usually necessary but you could choose a firm based on your interests and experience in a certain type of law. Here are the tasks and responsibilities that you have as a legal secretary:
- Organising meetings between departments in the firm or with clients.
- Scheduling court hearings and other legal proceedings for your colleagues and clients.
- Proofing legal documents.
- Organising the legal documents that are kept in the office and making sure there is a suitable filing system so your colleagues can find anything they need with ease.
Legal secretary career path
As a legal secretary, you’re exposed to many other jobs within the law throughout your career. If you’re interested in having a more law-based job, you could become a paralegal or train to be a chartered legal executive. Alternatively, if you enjoy the administration side but not the legal aspect, you could explore other secretarial options. Here is the career path for legal secretaries:
You begin your career as a junior legal secretary. As a junior member of staff, you’re given mostly administrative tasks like organising meetings, answering the phones and greeting clients. With experience, your supervisor gives you more responsibility and freedom to work on your own but for the most part this job is training you with the skills that you need for the rest of your career.
Once you’ve gained enough experience, you become a legal secretary. This role gives you more responsibility than the junior counterpart. You’re involved in more projects including proofreading and checking legal documents to look for mistakes. You may even collaborate with other departments to organise events for clients.
As a senior legal secretary, you’re one of the most senior members of the legal secretary team in the department. This means you’re responsible for making sure your colleagues are happy, that they’re working well and have all the training they need. You organise events, filing systems and other aspects of the workplace in order to help the legal teams in the office work efficiently.
Legal secretary salaries
The salary that you earn as a legal secretary can vary from the national average. This often depends on the type of firm you’re working for, its geographic location and your experience level. Here are the salaries that you could earn as a legal secretary:
- In an entry-level position, like junior legal secretary, you earn between £15,000 and £25,000 per year.
- Legal secretaries make an average of £25,000 per year which can extend to £40,000 depending on the firm you work for.
- Senior legal secretaries make an average of £35,000 per year, extending to £55,000 per year for some firms.
Qualifications and training
Getting into the legal secretary career path requires having the right qualifications and training. Here are the qualifications and training that you need for the role:
One route into the legal secretary career path is through a diploma. You can complete a diploma for legal secretaries. This diploma teaches you the necessary legal background information that you need for the career. You also learn the requirements of a legal document so you can apply this knowledge to proofreading legal documents throughout your career. You can learn more about diplomas and training courses through the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEX).
Another option is doing an apprenticeship. Apprenticeships teach you how to do the job through you working for a legal firm. You’re trained by professionals in the field meaning you develop specific skills and fully understand the working environment before you begin your first legal secretary job. If you’re interested in an apprenticeship, you can explore the options available to you with the government’s apprenticeship search tool.
Whilst there are positive and negative factors about both an apprenticeship and a diploma, the most important part is choosing the educational route that suits you the best. You can do this by looking at all your options and conducting your own research before you begin in either option.
If you’re going down the diploma route, having some work experience before applying to your first legal secretary role is a good way to make your application stand out. One way of getting work experience is through an internship. This teaches you the environment that you’ll work in as a legal secretary so you can develop the skills you need for your career. You can view the criminal and human rights law internships and commercial law internships available for applications now.
Legal secretary skills
Combining your skills with your experience is a great way to get an interview for a legal secretary job. Here are the skills that you need to succeed in the career:
- Legal documents. Part of your work is proofreading legal documents. To do this, you need to understand the conventions around legal documents, what is accepted and what requires editing so that you can make a note and inform a legal professional. This is very important because a hole in a contract may have legal repercussions in the future. To have a full understanding, you should also be aware of legal jargon and the legal system so you can apply this knowledge to your proofreading.
- Organisation. You need great organisation to be a legal secretary. You use these organisational skills on a daily basis to complete many of the tasks that you have. This includes organising your own workload, organising meetings, events and calendars and organising the filing systems for the office.
- Administration. Legal secretaries need good administration skills. You complete documentation, organise billing and do other tasks that involve being great with administration.
- Customer service. Part of being a legal secretary is customer service. You greet clients and offer them support and answer their questions. Having good customer service skills means being friendly and attentive but not overbearing.
Pros and cons of being a legal secretary
As with any career, there are good and bad parts of being a legal secretary. Understanding the positive and negative helps you decide if it’s the right job for you or if you should keep looking for another more appropriate role for you. Here are the pros and cons of being a legal secretary:
- You get to work in a busy, exciting environment.
- If you love organisation, this job means you use your organisational skills on a daily basis.
- It’s a great way to work in the legal field without having to provide legal advice.
- You don’t need high level qualifications to enter the job.
- It can be a highly pressured working environment.
- The salary levels aren’t that high compared with other jobs in the legal sector.
- You have lots of work to do with short deadlines. Your colleagues may expect your work ethic to be extremely high.
Legal secretary work-life balance
Legal secretaries typically work standard office hours of 9am to 5pm on Monday to Friday. However, this may extend around deadlines or if the office is particularly busy. Many legal positions like solicitors and barristers have highly stressful, long working weeks. This means there is a lot of work for you to do as you’re supporting them. You might find yourself feeling pressured into working overtime when other people in the firm are as well. This could mean throwing off your otherwise good work-life balance.
As a legal secretary, most of your work is office-based. You could be working for a law firm, a court setting or even in police stations. You can find out more about the legal secretary career through the Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs.
Here are the typical employers that you could work for as a legal secretary:
- Chartered legal executive