Litigation Secretary Careers: Job Description & Salary Information

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Learn about a litigation secretary's job description, salary and training requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of a career as a litigation secretary.
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A Career as a Litigation Secretary: Pros and Cons

Like other secretaries and administrative assistants, litigation secretaries perform a variety of clerical duties. What sets them apart is their specialized knowledge of legal procedures. Check out the following pros and cons to decide whether or not to pursue this career.

Pros of a Litigation Secretary Career
Higher earning potential compared to most other types of secretaries (average salary of about $45,000)*
Training requirements are minimal*
Experience as a litigation secretary can prepare you for a job as a paralegal*
Variety of job duties (scheduling, billing, filing)**

Cons of a Litigation Secretary Career
No job growth (-4% from 2014-2024)*
Positions in rural and nonmetropolitan areas might offer low entry-level salaries**
Requires a familiarity with several types of office software programs**
Work schedule can include overtime hours**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Legal Secretaries International, Inc.

Essential Career Information

Job Description

In addition to answering phones and filing documents, litigation secretaries take on a number of tasks to support attorneys. They might transcribe or format such court documents as subpoenas and summonses, manage attorneys' calendars, handle client billing and make travel arrangements. According to Legal Secretaries International, those who've been in the occupation long enough might have more advanced tasks, such as conducting both legal and nonlegal research.

Salary and Career Outlook

Though entry-level litigation secretaries in nonmetropolitan areas might start out with lower salaries than their urban counterparts, the earning potential for this industry tends to exceed that of secretaries in other fields, including medical secretaries. With a mean annual wage of around $45,000, litigation secretaries were surpassed only by executive secretaries in terms of pay as of May 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

However, the BLS also reported a 4% decline for legal secretaries during the 2014-2024 decade. This is in stark contrast to employment prospects for medical secretaries, which had a projected job growth of 21%.

Career Skills and Requirements

Training

To work as a litigation secretary you'll need at least a high school diploma or GED. Though there are no other set educational requirements, some employers look for job applicants who understand of legal procedures and terminology.

One way to acquire this knowledge is to work under the supervision of another litigation secretary or complete an on-the-job training program. Although not required, you might also consider enrolling in a technical or community college's associate degree, diploma or certificate program for litigation secretaries.

These programs teach students about office procedures and the use of common software programs to prepare legal documents. Coursework in legal resources, litigation procedures, transcription and ethics are common as well. Some schools also offer courses focused on specific practice areas, such as family or employment law.

Useful Skills

You'll also need top-notch computer skills to get a job in this field. Proficiency in word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software is particularly important. Since the Internet is used to conduct research, the ability to effectively use search engines and legal databases is essential as well. According to Legal Secretaries International, large law firms can also require litigation secretaries to possess typing speeds of 65-80 words per minute (wpm), although entry-level government jobs might have less demanding requirements. Litigation secretaries must also demonstrate the following:

  • Strong writing and proofreading skills (imperative for drafting error-free legal documents)
  • Interpersonal skills (needed to deal with a variety of legal professionals, clients and colleagues)
  • Organizational skills (important for maintaining files, calendars and confidential materials)

Job Postings from Real Employers

Previous legal experience and excellent computer skills are among typical employer expectations. They also look for secretaries who can multi-task and manage stress. Take a look at the following May 2012 job postings to find out what to expect when hunting for a litigation secretary position:

  • A California law firm was looking for a litigation secretary specializing in intellectual property law. Candidates would need five years of experience in patent prosecution, including familiarity with Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) filings, e-filings, domestic documents and foreign documents. Excellent computer, word processing and organizational skills as well as a pleasant professional demeanor were also required.
  • A Wisconsin law firm needed a litigation secretary with exceptional transcription, typing, writing and organizational skills. Candidates also needed at least three years of work experience.
  • A law firm based in Dallas, Texas, was searching for a junior litigation secretary with 2-4 years of experience. Excellent computer skills and the ability to work well with attorneys were are also must.

How to Maximize Your Skills

Complete a Formal Training Program

ISEEK reports that some employers prefer applicants who've completed formal training through a community or technical college. Consider enrolling in one of these certificate, diploma or associate degree programs to develop the kind of expertise they're looking for - particularly when it comes to computer skills. According to the BLS, secretaries with advanced software proficiency are in demand and thus have the best job prospects. Additionally, some schools allow students to complete internships in legal settings, which gives you some relevant experience to list on your resume.

Get Certified

Another way to get an edge while on the job hunt is to get certified. NALS, an association for legal professionals, offers basic and advanced certifications for litigation secretaries. To be eligible for its Accredited Legal Secretary (ALS) credential, you must possess a year of office work experience or have completed an approved training program.

Other Careers to Consider

Paralegal

If you're looking for a career option in the legal field with more favorable employment projections and better pay, consider becoming a paralegal. Many of the skills necessary to work as a litigation secretary are applicable to this occupation. Paralegals support the work of attorneys by writing reports, assisting with investigations, conducting legal research, obtaining affidavits and preparing for legal proceedings. You'll more than likely need an associate degree to enter this career, although completing a certificate program in paralegal studies could be sufficient if you already have a bachelor's degree in another field. A job growth of 18% was projected for these professionals over the 2010-2020 decade, according to the BLS. Paralegals earned a mean salary of about $50,000 as of May 2011.

Court Reporter

Another career option worth considering is that of court reporter. Court reporters use stenotype machines and other types of technology to develop exact transcripts of legal proceedings. Some also make digital recordings of courtroom dialogue. Most states require licensure or certification to work as a court reporter. This often entails passing the National Court Reporters Association's certification exams, during which you must demonstrate the ability to type at 225 words per minute. The BLS projected a 14% job growth for court reporters from 2010-2020. They earned a mean annual wage of about $54,000 as of May 2011.

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