Legal Secretary Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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Get the truth about a legal secretary's salary, education requirements and career prospects. Read the job description and see the pros and cons of becoming a legal secretary.
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Pros and Cons of Being a Legal Secretary

Legal secretaries help a law firm run smoothly by handling several tasks, like answering messages and maintaining records. You can learn other ups and downs to becoming a legal secretary by reading below.

PROS of Being a Legal Secretary
Income is above the national average overall ($45,000 or so)*
Minimal education requirements overall*
Promotion possible with additional education and training*
Office settings are typically comfortable to work in*

CONS of Being a Legal Secretary
Work can be routine or mundane*
Specific and specialized industry terminology is needed by legal secretaries*
Slow employment growth*
Knowledge of software applications is necessary*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Essential Vocational Information

Job Description

Some typical job duties of a secretary include maintaining records and messages, greeting visitors and clients, handling phone calls, completing forms, replying to messages and distributing mail. However, the job duties of a legal secretary go above and beyond the normal job duties of a secretary. For example, legal secretaries have to work with legal papers, like complaints, responses, subpoenas, motions and summonses. This is normally done with the guidance of a paralegal or attorney. A legal secretary might have to assist with legal research by examining legal journals and confirming that legal brief citations and quotes are accurate.

Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in May 2014 reported that legal secretaries made an average of $21.96 per hour. This hourly wage resulted in a mean yearly income of about $45,670. Some legal secretaries saw earnings closer to $70,000 according to the top ten percentile of wage estimates for this vocation. The District of Columbia, New Jersey, California, Delaware, Alabama and Pennsylvania were the regions that paid the highest average salaries for legal secretaries.

Job Outlook

A slower-than-average employment growth was expected for legal secretaries. For the 2012-2022 decade, the projected employment for legal secretaries was expected to decline by 3%. The legal industry would see a slower-than-average growth overall, and that is what is thought to be the cause of the decline for legal secretaries.

Occupational Requirements

Training and Education

Basic secretary skills can be acquired through job training, high school programs or post-secondary education schools. You'll typically want to develop a familiarity with computer programs like Microsoft Office. Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint and Microsoft Excel are all commonly used. Developing good writing skills is important as well, since legal secretaries create a lot of reports and e-mails. Additionally, as a legal secretary, you'll have to learn the terminology and lingo used in law. Some schools offer programs that are geared specifically towards legal secretaries.

What Are Employers Looking For?

Communication and interpersonal skills are crucial for legal secretaries, since employers want employees who can greet clients in a friendly manner and work with co-workers in a civil way. Organizational skills are important for many employers because papers, schedules and forms all have to be put into proper order. Organized legal secretaries can help firms run smoothly and efficiently. You can learn what real employers who posted job advertisements in November 2012 wanted in legal secretaries by reading below.

  • A legal secretary opening in Florida preferred applicants to have insurance defense litigation experience.
  • A Michigan company wanted a legal secretary with a typing speed of 75 WPM or higher.
  • Proofreading and Microsoft Office skills were necessary for a legal secretary job in California.
  • E-filing experience was a must for a business in Pennsylvania looking for a legal secretary.

How Can You Stand Out as a Legal Secretary

Obtaining certification is one way you can stand out amongst other legal secretaries. Professional certification shows that you're committed to your field and it demonstrates that you're proficient in skills used by legal secretaries. Certifications generally have minimum education and experience requirements. Passing an examination is another typical requirement. Several organizations are out there that offer different certifications for legal secretaries. The Certified Legal Secretary Specialist is available through Legal Secretaries International, while the Accredited Legal Secretary certification and the Professional Legal Secretary designation are available through the Association for Legal Professionals (NALS).

Other Career Paths

If you would like to further support lawyers in their work, you might want to look into being a paralegal. In this occupation, you'd investigate the facts of a case and perform research on various regulations or laws that might be applicable to the case. You'll provide this information in a report for the lawyer you work for and assist them during the trial for the case you worked on. To become a paralegal, you'll typically need some specialized job training or post-secondary education along with some work experience in a law firm. Paralegals earned roughly $50,000 or so per year on average as of May 2011, according to the BLS. Paralegals were projected to see an employment growth of 18% from 2010 to 2020.

If you want to be involved in legal proceedings, you could consider becoming a court reporter. As a court reporter, you'll make transcriptions of legal proceedings. You have to capture every word, along with physical gestures and actions that are made. You'll need a post-secondary education certificate and a state license (in most instances) to be a court reporter. The BLS projected a 14% growth in employment for court reporters from 2010-2020. As of May 2011, court reporters made an average annual salary of about $54,000.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: Criminal Justice
      • Master: Legal Studies
    Bachelor's
      • Undergraduate in Legal Studies
      • BS - Legal Support and Services
      • BS - Legal Support and Services - Paralegal
      • Bachelor: Criminal Justice
    Associate's
      • AAS in Legal Support and Services
      • Associate: Criminal Justice
    Certificate
      • Postbaccalaureate Certificate - Pathway to Paralegal
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.A. - Legal Studies
      • B.A. - Criminal Justice
    Associate's
      • Associate of Arts - Criminal Justice
      • Associate of Arts - Paralegal
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Criminal Justice: Legal Studies
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Organizational Leadership: Criminal Justice
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Argosy University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor - Business Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Saint Joseph's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Criminal Justice Intelligence & Crime Analysis
  • Campus and Online Programs
    7. South University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Criminal Justice (BS)
    Associate's
      • Paralegal Studies (AS)
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Penn Foster Career School

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Career Diploma - Virtual Assistant
      • Career Diploma: Legal Secretary
  • Online Programs Available
    9. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Corrections and Case Management
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Generalist
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Homeland Security and Crisis Management
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Forensic Science
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement
    Associate's
      • Associate of Science in Criminal Justice
  • Campus Locations:
    10. CDI College

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Diploma in Legal Administrative Assistant
      • Diploma in Legal Assistant
      • Diploma in Paralegal
      • Diploma in Paralegal - JCA. 1F

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Master: Criminal Justice
  • Undergraduate in Legal Studies
  • AAS in Legal Support and Services
  • Postbaccalaureate Certificate - Pathway to Paralegal

Which subject are you interested in?

Keiser University

  • B.A. - Legal Studies
  • B.A. - Criminal Justice
  • Associate of Arts - Criminal Justice
  • Associate of Arts - Paralegal

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Grand Canyon University

  • MS in Criminal Justice: Legal Studies

What is your highest level of education?

Northcentral University

  • MS - Organizational Leadership: Criminal Justice

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Argosy University

  • Bachelor - Business Administration

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Saint Joseph's University

  • MS in Criminal Justice Intelligence & Crime Analysis

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South University

  • Criminal Justice (BS)
  • Paralegal Studies (AS)

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Penn Foster Career School

  • Career Diploma - Virtual Assistant
  • Career Diploma: Legal Secretary

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