Career How To: Become A Legal Secretary

A legal secretary enjoys a good salary, prestige, and certain perks when working for a reputable law firm or legal office.

Becoming a legal secretary leads to clerical duties with a law firm or a legal office, such as a county bar association. Along with the usual clerical duties of typing, filing, and editing, a legal secretary may be asked to meet with clients to get documents signed or to witness clients' signatures on important legal forms, such as powers of attorney or a last will and testament.

If you are thinking about becoming a legal secretary, here are a few tips:

1. Find out if certification is needed in your area. A legal secretary may be more apt to get hired if she has a certification or an associate degree that is available from many two-year colleges. In lieu of these credentials, several years of experience working in a business or law office may provide adequate training as preparation for law firm work.

2. Become familiar with legal terminology and procedures. For example, if you apply for a position with a probate attorney, be sure you know something about probate procedures in your county or state, and understand some of the language or terms that are likely to be used in a law office, such as beneficiary or executor. When applying for a legal secretary job, you may be given spelling, grammar, and numerical tests, so be prepared for these as well.

3. Understand that working for attorneys can entail a high-stress environment. In any legal setting, filing dates and courtroom preparation can be grueling and time-consuming. You may be expected to work overtime, including some evenings or weekends, if a case is preparing to go to trial. In essence, you become the attorney's right-hand assistant. If he or she is unavailable, you will have to learn what to do on that person's behalf, like talking with clients who call about their case.

4. Find out how the court system works. Then you will understand the process of filing documents, preparing for court testimony, preparing appeals to a judge's decision, organizing briefs, and so on. You will need to know how many copies of a document should be filed, which ones need to be time-stamped, whose signatures should be obtained, etc. Deadlines, due-dates, and due process are part of the job knowledge that you will need to master, as well.

5. Keep in mind there may be opportunities for advancement. You may eventually take on paralegal or legal assisting duties, which could earn you a higher pay level with more responsibilities and status, including your own office or other perks. In time you may decide to apply for law school and become an attorney yourself. Some firms offer educational tuition reimbursement if a student earns a grade of C or better.

Whether or not you advance, working in a law firm can be a fast-paced, exciting place to learn new skills and assist clients as they seek justice for their claims. You can join a professional legal secretaries association and enjoy your job environment as one that is never dull or meaningless.

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