If you've ever watched law-based dramas on television, you'd be forgiven for thinking it was all courtrooms and judges wearing silly wigs, but you'd be wrong.
If you want a career in law but don't fancy taking the centre stage in the courtroom, why not look behind closed doors, and consider a career as a legal secretary?
So, what will I actually be doing?
Every law firm, financial company or barrister’s chambers needs a good legal secretary to ensure the office runs smoothly. This important supporting role is a demanding and responsible one, but the financial benefits can be great and you could find yourself involved in a variety of challenging and interesting tasks.
Your main priority as a legal secretary is to provide secretarial and administrative support to lawyers and legal executives. Your daily tasks will include:
- Keeping records up to date
- Typing up legal documents
- Answering the phone
- Organising diaries
- Preparing court forms
- Attending court
- Performing legal research
- Making appointments with clients
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The nitty gritty
Most legal secretaries work regular 9 – 5 office hours, although there are often part-time positions available for those looking for flexible work. While most of your time will be based in the office, you may be required to attend court hearings or a police station occasionally (although sorry to tell you, it's nothing like TV).
So where can you go with this career? Many legal secretaries move on to become a PA or office manager but if you’ve caught the legal bug, you’re in a great position to branch out and train to become a legal executive or paralegal - or even study for a law degree to become a solicitor or barrister.
Money, money, money
Good legal secretaries are highly valued and while you may start out on around £19 to £25k per year, if you work hard to get enough experience and sufficient training you can demand a much higher salary of up to £35k per year.
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The good points...
"The work of a legal secretary can be interesting, varied and there is great opportunity for career advancement," says the Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs. "There are many different areas of law you can work in and, as we all know, variety is the spice of life. Becoming a legal secretary is an excellent foundation for a legal career and the more experience gained, the higher the salary you can command."
...and the bad
"Legal secretaries can have a lot of responsibility, so you need to be prepared to be dedicated to your job and work hard when needed. Being able to manage your workload and keep to deadlines are important attributes.".....no pressure there then...
Is there study involved?
Although there are no set entry requirements, most employers expect applicants to have a range of GSCEs as a minimum entry for the job. Good secretarial skills are also a must, so you may want to consider taking:
- NVQ/SVQ in Business and Administration (Levels 3 and 4)
- OCR Higher Diploma in Administrative and Secretarial Procedures
Once you have the basic secretarial skills under your belt you can look to specialise with one of the following courses:
- Legal Secretaries Diploma run by the Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs (ILSPA)
- City & Guilds/ILEX Level 3 Certificate for Legal Secretaries
If you work for a specialist firm then you might be sent on some single-subject certificate course, which will help you get up to speed with a particular branch of the law such as conveyancing or corporate law.
Need additional qualifications? Find a course at our Learning Zone
OK, I'm interested... But is it really the job for me?
As you would expect, impeccable secretarial skills are essential in this role, but an interest in law and the ability to get your head around complex legal terminology will give you a distinct advantage. In this job it pays to be a bookworm as legal secretaries often specialise in a particular aspect of the law such as litigation, family law or conveyancing.
You’ll also be in demand if you are:
- Calm under pressure
- A great communicator