Legal Secretary and Legal Administrative Assistant
Legal secretaries are often called legal administrative assistants, and they play an essential role in the functioning of small, mid-sized, and large law offices, as well as legal departments at various corporations. The job duties of legal secretaries and legal administrative assistants are somewhat different from those of paralegals. Typically, legal secretaries and legal administrative assistants are responsible for more front and back-office work, while paralegals work directly with clients. However, many legal secretaries and legal administrative assistants advance into senior level positions or transition into a paralegal role at some point in their career.
Typically, legal secretaries and legal administrative assistants are responsible for duties such as preparing legal documents, typing legal correspondence, keeping track of deadlines related to trials and filings, ensuring that depositions and meetings are scheduled, organizing the legal calendar for attorneys, serving as a receptionist, conducing legal research, ordering office supplies, and answering phone calls from opposing attorneys, clients, and vendors.
While the roles played by legal secretaries and legal administrative assistants are somewhat related to the roles of secretaries and administrative assistants in non-legal settings, the website LegalCareers.About.com says it is essential that legal secretaries and legal administrative assistants receive some type of formal training and/or education before entering this professional field. For example, it is important for them to understand legal terminology, and they must know how to access, interpret and understand the rules of state and federal courts, and it is crucial that they have a thorough understanding of legal procedures.
Besides receiving formal training for legal-related practices and procedures, legal secretaries and legal administrative assistants must be fast typists, have exceptional computer skills, know how to complete word processing projects, create spreadsheets, and utilize time and billing software.
There are several environments in which legal secretaries and legal administrative assistants work. Some of the most popular include small, medium and large-sized law firms, legal departments in large corporations, various branches of local, state and federal governments, organizations that exist for public interest purposes, all branches of the judicial system, and any other place or organization where there is a legal department or where an attorney is employed. Typically, the normal work week is 40 hours.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the profession of legal secretary and/or legal administrative assistant is currently one of the fields with the greatest number of job openings, and opportunities are most available for those with a high level of computer software knowledge. Additionally, the BLS reports that the national median annual wages for legal secretaries and legal administrative assistants is $39,860.
Educational training programs for legal secretaries and legal administrative assistants normally take between one and two years to complete. Training programs are offered at various schools either on-campus or via on-line options. Some, but not all, employers require that their legal secretaries and legal administrative assistants receive accreditation through the National Association of Legal Assistants. In order to become certified, legal secretaries and legal administrative assistants usually need a minimum of one year of professional working experience, they must complete an approved training course, and they must pass a test that will certify them as “Professional Legal Secretaries.”
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