So you want to be a legal secretary
Legal secretaries live a very different life from their counterparts in various specialisations and industries. Although the role does require generic secretarial functions, it is often necessary for a legal secretary to possess additional knowledge about the law.
Aside from having legislative knowledge, other demands of the job would encompass areas of competency and efficiency in completing administrative tasks; whether it involves the drafting, printing and updating of legal documents and records, or organising meetings with clients.
Keeping in mind the aforementioned demands, what qualities or traits should an individual possess to excel in this challenging role?
As mentioned above, the candidate has to have some form of legal training and background. Legal secretaries act as the right hand man, or woman, of the lawyer and support them in doing preliminary research as well as proof reading and interviews. Hence, it is critical for one to have legal knowledge in order to make perceptive decisions.
Most employers prefer to hire legal secretaries with past experience as this will save their time retraining staff. However, if you wish to give yourself a competitive edge, consider taking up legal training programmes to earn a certification. This would put you on par with those who have experience, and help you exceed those without legal qualifications.
Strong writing and reading skills
It is no secret that lawyers have strong linguistic capabilities which must be executed in the courtroom. This is no different for their secretaries as they are expected to assist lawyers with their work.
The nature of legal work requires certain levels of discretion, especially when handling sensitive matters or confidential agreements between the firm and the client.
Having a good command of language and proficient writing and reading skills is also key for success in this role, due to the amount of legal research and drafting of contracts you may potentially have to do in this role. Legal secretaries are also relied upon for proof reading of contracts, agreements and other documents. A good command of the English language, and potentially a second language, would also help in the drafting of letters and memos, whilst extending an image of professionalism.
Possess discretion, tact and an eye for details
When taking on the role of a legal secretary, it is imperative to practise discretion and tact. The nature of legal work requires certain levels of discretion, especially when handling sensitive matters or confidential agreements between the firm and the client. Never talk about your job outside of work, and practise tact when dealing with both internal and external stakeholders.
An eye for details is also crucial given the administrative and supporting nature of the job. Always take the initiative to clarify your doubts and to be responsible over tasks handed to you. This will help you work seamlessly with the lawyers, and further help increase productivity and prove your worth.
Strong organisational and interpersonal skills
At the core, this is a secretarial role which requires good organisational skills – from scheduling meetings and travel plans, drafting multiple legal documents and correspondences, to maintaining complex docket systems and engage in legal research. You should be excellent in working with deadlines, and have excellent communication skills to juggle multiple clients and lawyers.
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