A legal secretary plays an essential supportive role in law offices, governments and courts. Their organisational and communication skills help legal professionals work more efficiently.
Because legal secretaries don’t require formal law training, this entry-level position is an excellent doorway into the legal field. Many legal secretaries go on to become paralegals, barristers or solicitors.
If you have a keen interest in the law and excellent organisational skills, a career as a legal secretary may be a good option for you.
What does a legal secretary do?
As a legal secretary, you will perform clerical, secretarial and administrative tasks that help legal professionals do their jobs. Duties and responsibilities can include:
- Preparing briefing notes and reports
- Proofreading written work for grammatical and typographical errors
- Arranging staff meetings
- Scheduling appointments and travel plans
- Managing telephone calls
- Processing and filing mail, correspondence and records
- Transcribing dictation of letters and documents
- Greeting visitors and connecting them with the appropriate persons
You will play an important role in office management. Having some knowledge of the law can be useful, but this is not a strict requirement of the job. Your primary focus is to ensure the office is running smoothly, so legal professionals can focus on helping their clients.
What’s the difference between a paralegal and a legal secretary?
Many people use the terms, legal secretary and paralegal, interchangeably. These roles, while similar in some ways, are also very different.
Legal secretaries focus more on administrative tasks and general office management. Paralegals, on the other hand, provide more direct support for legal professionals. They are involved in preparing research, legal documents, arguments and general case preparation.
Unlike legal secretaries, paralegals are trained in law. They cannot provide legal advice or work without the supervision of a registered legal professional. However, they can charge clients for their time.
How do you become a legal secretary?
In Australia, to become a legal secretary, you will not be required to have a legal background or any specific legal secretary qualifications. However, according to Job Outlook, approximately 56% of legal secretaries do have a Certificate III qualification or higher.
Formal training and education can ensure you stand out from other candidates and may help you secure employment opportunities. If you’re an aspiring legal secretary, consider Open Colleges’ BSB31015 Certificate III in Business Administration (Legal). This course is available to anyone who has completed Year 10, or one year of vocational experience. Training can take anywhere from 6 months to one year.
As a legal secretary, you may decide to work for a law office, government agency, or a court. To succeed in this position, you will need excellent organisational, time management and communication skills. A great deal of your time will be spent transcribing dictation and organising appointments, so employers will also consider your typing speed.
Other essential skills include:
- Writing skills
- Interpersonal skills
- Task management
- Microsoft Office proficiency
How much do legal secretaries earn?
Salary is an important factor when considering any career. According to Job Outlook, as a legal secretary, you can expect a salary of around $1,146 per week. This equates to approximately $59,592 per year. This can increase, over time, to match your level of knowledge and experience.
A challenging yet rewarding career
You may find the role of a legal secretary stressful and challenging at times. Like the legal professionals you will be working for, as a legal secretary, you will face constant deadlines, plenty of paperwork and management challenges. However, all that hard work pays off when you have the opportunity to help others. You’ll also be getting hands-on experience, which may open the doors to a wealth of future opportunities which can help you work your way up the career ladder.