Whether you’re considering a career as a legal secretary or are simply curious to find out about job prospects, this article will tell you everything you need to know. Read on to learn how to become a legal secretary or PA, why this might be the career path for you and what qualifications and qualities you need to be right for these roles.
What is a Legal Secretary or PA?
If you’re thinking about career prospects as a legal secretary or legal PA, it’s essential that you fully understand what is required of you in these roles. As a legal secretary, you would spend most of your time performing administrative tasks that are specific to the field of law and dealing with legal professionals.
Why Become a Legal Secretary or PA?
A legal secretary is knowledgeable in all areas of the legal process and assists in the preparation of legal documents and the documentation of cases. To pursue a career as a legal secretary or legal PA, you need to develop a broad knowledge of legal proceedings, law documentation and legal terminology. These roles might appeal to anyone with secretarial expertise who is looking for a new challenge.
Below is a list of some of the key duties of a legal secretary or PA in all areas of law:
- Answering calls and emails and taking messages in a professional manner.
- Scheduling appointments, meetings, hearings, site inspections and depositions.
- Preparing presentations and creating spreadsheets.
- Preparing correspondence to various parties.
- Proofreading and transcribing legal documents such as briefs, pleas, motions and court subpoenas.
- Managing the documentation of legal cases and tracking legal filing deadlines.
- Working in close contact with lawyers, clients, witnesses and courtroom staff.
- Assisting with legal research and taking minutes in meetings.
- Organising and keeping meticulous records of legal files and cases.
- Maintaining a database of staff and clients for the legal firm, law offices or legal department.
How to Become a Legal Secretary or PA
The first step on the ladder to this exciting career path is understanding what qualities and qualifications you need to become a legal secretary or PA. The exact requirements for the role vary depending on the nature of the contract with the law firm, legal offices, legal department or legal professional who will be your employer.
However, there are some universal touchstones that mean you are on the path to success in this field.
Qualifications Needed to Be a Legal Secretary or PA
1. Educational Requirements
If you are considering this role, you might now be asking ‘What degree do you need to become a legal secretary?’ Perhaps surprisingly, there are very few academic requirements necessary for this role. Although legal firms do often prefer applicants with degrees or qualifications that are relevant to a variety of areas of law. For example, a degree or diploma in English, Computer Science, Business or Law would give you an advantage.
That said, you may now be wondering ‘Do you need to go to university to be a legal secretary?’ The answer to this question is a resounding ‘No.’ Even those without any academic qualifications can develop the skills necessary to become a legal secretary or PA.
2. Work Experience
Legal secretaries and PAs can gain relevant work experience by working in administrative positions with less challenging responsibilities prior to these roles. The key to a successful career as a legal secretary or PA is understanding the legal procedures and terminology that are essential for your administrative tasks.
This training is usually conducted on the job, including specific tasks such as how to prepare legal documents, word processing and overall legal practices. It may take several months or even years to master the industry-specific practices, but the right role is worth the effort and there are many exciting legal secretary prospects after gaining such skills.
3. Professional Diplomas
Certificates, diplomas and professional courses for legal secretaries and PAs might include:
- The Association of Legal Secretaries offers CPD Accredited IT skills and Microsoft Office training in addition to an accredited Legal Secretary Certificate, Legal Secretary Diploma and Legal PA Diploma.
- The Certified Legal Secretary Specialist (CLSS) offers certification is conferred by Legal Secretaries International and covers areas such as intellectual property, criminal law, civil litigation, probate, and business law. Typically, candidates will need 5 years of legal experience and pass an examination to become certified.
- The National Association for Legal Secretaries (NALS) offers numerous certification opportunities including the Accredited Legal Secretary (ALS), Professional Legal Secretary (PLS) and Professional Paralegal (PP) credentials. Each certification has specific eligibility and experience requirements, as well as individual examinations that must be passed to obtain the credential.
- Those with 1 year of general office experience, or who have completed an approved training course, can also obtain the Accredited Legal Professional (ALP) certification through a testing process administered by NALS.
What Qualities Do You Need to Be a Legal Secretary or PA
To be a successful legal secretary or PA, it is essential that you have excellent organisational skills and the ability to multitask and perform under pressure. The key to securing the best legal secretary job prospects is a personal and professional demeanour coupled with legal industry expertise.
Below is a list of some of the essential qualities required for this role.
Your boss might be a top barrister with an important court case first thing in the morning. Ensuring you can be relied upon might mean organising case files or relaying where that vital document is saved at a moment’s notice.
You may need to be available to help with correspondence, court cases and more outside of usual office hours so ensure your schedule is flexible and that you have all the information you need at your fingertips.
Professionalism can mean a range of things but, as a legal secretary or PA, your professional conduct is measured against your competency and your ability to perform multiple tasks to a high standard. Performing your tasks quickly and efficiently while maintaining a professional but friendly manner makes you indispensable.
The ability to be trustworthy and discrete in your role as a legal secretary or PA is a fundamental part of the job description. In any law firm, legal office, government agency or legal organisation, you might be the person responsible for keeping track of important case notes.
It is important to maintain the confidentiality of official business, particularly regarding any sensitive legal information. So, leave work at the office and don’t discuss anything outside your department.
Organisation and Multitasking
The ability to be organised and multitask is vital to most law firms, which often deal with numerous clients and multiple cases at the same time. You will often be the first person to meet and greet clients as well as usher people into various meetings. So it’s important to know multiple schedules, keep track of meeting notes and legal documents, and be able to work to tight deadlines and stay focussed at all times.
Legal Secretary and PA Prospects
On the path to becoming a legal PA or secretary, it’s important to identify the right job prospects. Below is a list of some of the key legal secretary prospects to look out for.
Prospect 1: Legal Firms and Law Offices
A legal secretary role in a law firm or law office might specialise in a particular area of law, such as corporate or family law, and this kind of prospect would gain you valuable experience in dealing with legal professionals and learning the terminology and practices of a legal firm.
Prospect 2: Government Agencies
A legal secretary or PA role in Government Agencies could see you working with some high-profile clients and improve your prospects at working in areas of business or politics.
Prospect 3: Non-Governmental organisations/non-profit Organisations
A legal secretary or PA role in NGOs or non-profit organisations might suit someone wishing to pursue a career based around global issues such as the environment or charitable causes.
Looking for A Legal Secretary or PA Role in London? Oriel Partners Can Help!
If these exciting legal secretary prospects have you thinking that this might be the career for you then some expert guidance can help you make the leap into this new role. Oriel Partners is a boutique PA and administrative recruitment agency in London with a bespoke consultancy approach and extensive professional network. Get in touch with us today to let us help you find your dream legal secretary role.