A legal secretary is responsible for most of the clerical duties in a law firm. When you become a legal secretary you will be spending a lot of time answering phone calls and emails, preparing court papers, typing and filing documents, maintaining a law library, fielding questions from clients and scheduling appointments. There are job opportunities available in private law firms, government agencies, insurance companies and financial institutions. Read on to learn more.
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Things you need
- High school diploma or GED
Get a high school diploma or a GED. You don't need a college degree to become a legal secretary; but acquiring secretarial skills and taking courses in business-related subjects when you are in high school will help put you on the right career path.
Bone up on your secretarial skills. Perhaps you are considering embarking on a second career or going back to work after your children are grown. Since legal secretaries spend a good part of their day typing letters and legal documents, word processing and keyboarding skills are a must. Take some classes at your local community college.
Familiarize yourself with legal documents. The public library is a good place to start. Once you begin working, you will learn as you go, but knowing the difference between a subpoena and an appeal will give you a heads up during your initial job interview.
Brush up on your "people" skills. Legal secretaries spend a lot of time dealing with high-powered attorneys and their demanding clients. You must be able to communicate effectively.
Obtain certification. Although certification is not necessarily a prerequisite for you to become a legal secretary, the profession is highly competitive and many big law firms require it, especially if you want to advance. Legal secretaries working for less than three years can become Accredited Legal Secretaries (ALS) and those working for more than three years can be certified as Professional Legal Secretaries (PLS). For more information, contact the National Association of Legal Secretaries (see Resources below).
Get a "temp" job. Many temporary jobs in this field obtained through an employment agency lead to full-time work. A temporary position will give both you and the employer an opportunity to try each other out.
Tips and warnings
- There are many different types of private law firms. Some specialize in probate law, while others focus on defending those charged with criminal offenses. If you want to become a legal secretary, decide which area of the law interests you the most before you apply for employment and go for a job interview.
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