The work of a legal secretary demands a high level of responsibility, working to deadlines and having knowledge of the legal field. It’s a huge leap from the role of a secretary to a local business. The legal profession is one that requires proficiency to run smoothly, as the secretary to a law firm, it’s on your shoulders that the office runs smoothly, all day every day.
In order to help a legal firm run a proficient service to their clients, you’re going need to be skilled. The following 7 skills are where you’ll need to excel in, in order to position yourself among the best in the field, and pull in the higher salaries for doing so.
Note that exceptional secretarial skills aren’t listed, as that’s parse and parcel with the job. You should have superior secretarial skills to make it as a legal secretary, and if you do, then the rest will help to ensure your right for the role, prior to going through your training.
This is the first stage that your job is going to be different from a traditional secretary. Your skills are specialist and tailored to the legal profession. You’ll have a feel for the lingo used and the wording you need to use when typing up legal letters for your colleagues.
A knowledge of the legal proceedings goes a long way too, as the more you understand about the law, in general, the more proficient you can be in your job and assist solicitors better by organising your work day, so that you can meet their deadlines.
For a law office to run smoothly, computers are a key tool that helps make that happen. The volume of typing you’ll have to do is going to be immense, so you’re going to need to be knowledgeable in Microsoft Word, to type up legal documentation, on behalf of solicitors.
There are also going to be times, when you’re asked to do up spreadsheets, so a working knowledge of Microsoft Excel is advantageous as well.
To convey your computer literacy best, you can gain recognisable qualification for using Microsoft packages, showing potential employers you know the computer software packages that they’ll need their legal secretaries to be using. If you’re struggling to get into employment as a legal secretary, this may be an area you may want to expand on with your training. Although for junior legal secretarial positions, there will be some on the job training provided.
There’s nothing going to scream unprofessional than a legal document getting sent out to clients, loaded with grammatical and spelling errors. It’s not a good representation on the firm you’re working for.
The ability to go through and proof everything one last time, and spot even the slightest of errors and make the corrections is an essential part of your job. This boils back down to your responsibilities in the profession. It’s you who represents the solicitor, through all written correspondence between a solicitor and his/her clients.
This is one skill that you can’t be taught. There’s going to be people of all walks of life coming through the doors of a lawyer’s office. Everyone has different legal matters needing tended to and you cannot be judgemental of anything that you gain knowledge on about a person’s life.
The business conducted within a law office, remains within those walls. Your employers are sworn to protect the confidentiality of all their clients, and they need their secretaries to do the same thing.
Legal matters are left at work and not discussed in social settings, when you’re out with your friends. It’s a severe breach of trust, can result in disciplinary action, and could even prevent you from working as a legal secretary in the future.
This is where your knowledge of legal procedures is going to assist you. It’s going to help you to prioritize tasks. The legal field requires deadlines in order to meet the laws surrounding any court action, which may be taken. This is the same for appeals procedures. When a solicitor is notified of an action the courts have taken, that needs conveyed to the client as soon as possible, as they’ll then be in a time frame to respond. Normally this will be 28 days notice, of which time they will need to instruct their advisor of the actions they’d liketo take, or arrange an appointment to discuss matters further.If you miss that deadline, it could be the difference between a client winning a case or standing trial for non-compliance.
There’s a great deal of responsibility required and a major component to meet those, are to work to and meet the tight deadlines required on a per task basis. Knowledge of the legal proceedings can help you to prioritize some tasks and also delegate some others.
For a law firm to run smoothly and efficiently all the staff need to work together. They need to be in communication with each other, and know what’s happening throughout the day.
When things go wrong in one department, there are other solicitors around who could lend a hand or offer advice in order to maintain a high level of service to clients.
As a legal secretary, your input with your specialist knowledge is also going to be valuable to your colleagues. Anything you can do to better assist your co-workers makes their jobs that much easier.
When you can do that and lighten the burden on your co-workers, you’ll find it so much easier to delegate some chores to others, during the times when you’re absolutely chomped with tasks needing completed to meet deadlines.
As the legal secretary, you’re the face of the firm. You’re the first point of contact on the telephone and at reception. Therefore, a courteous and professional telephone manner will be needed and so too will a professional code of conduct, smart business dress and the willingness to offer advice and provide assistance to colleagues and clients, where applicable.
If you feel you could meet or gain the skills listed above, then a career as a legal secretary may be for you. It is a profession with the opportunity for advancement in the legal field. You can start out in this career, get a feel if the industry is one you want to progress in, or if you’re happy to serve in a secretarial role, and receive a generous salary for your specialist skills. T
he choice is yours to decide if the career as a legal secretary is a permanent one, with opportunity to cross over into different specialist areas. Or to tough it out in the legal field, using the job as a stepping stone, furthering your studies and becoming a solicitor, barrister, or legal executive to progress your career in the field of law.
Regardless what you decide to do, if you can handle responsibility of running an office smoothly, using the skills outlined above, then you’d do great to serve as a legal secretary.