A career as a Legal Secretary

Jessica Penrice, Principal Consultant30 September 2019

It's a fact, legal secretaries are a fundamental part of a law firm. Such is their importance you might go so far as to say they are the beating heart of a firm’s internal operations.
Becoming a legal secretary can lead to a rewarding career. There’s the opportunity to earn a good salary and at some law firms, have access to some of the very best staff benefits. It’s also a great starting point if you want to try to progress a career in law, without going down the traditional routes. Read on to find out more about a career as a legal secretary…

What does a legal secretary do?

A legal secretary supports fee earners and other support staff, daily within a law firm. Trained to produce legal documents alongside delivering general admin tasks, as a secretary you will be familiar with legal terminology too. A key part of the role is supporting fee earners via dictation. Of course, that means you’ll need a fast typing speed, but we’ll come to the necessary skills required in a moment.
Depending on the firm you are working in, you may also need to provide Partner support. This will see you help with tasks such as diary management, booking travel and preparing expenses. One thing’s for sure, the role of a legal secretary is very varied and as such, a vital resource.

What skills do you need to be a legal secretary?
To be a legal secretary, being able to multitask, working to deadlines while under pressure is an absolute must. The role will suit you if you are natural born planner, someone who’s organised as much at home and in your personal life, as at work. Efficiency will make up your DNA; your general timekeeping will be excellent as you like to be ahead of schedule, and you’ll be adept at prioritising tasks throughout the day, to work around the needs of the firm. It’s important you love what you do too, having a passion or natural interest in law.
Across the firm, it is essential for legal secretaries to be able to communicate well. Good writing skills are vital too, with excellent spelling and grammar to boot. And when it comes to accuracy and attention to detail, only pin precision will make the grade.

As a legal secretary you may be expected to format documents, produce presentations, file expense reports and much more, which is why knowing your way around MS Office is a vital skill to have. That, and being able to type quickly with a high degree of accuracy. Anything from 45 to 80 words per minute, depending on the level of experience you have, will see you stand out. And make sure to list your typing speed on your CV so employers can see the numbers clearly.
We’re seeing more and more firms take on legal secretaries with a high level of IT competency, especially as artificial intelligence is introduced across the legal sector. So, make sure your IT skills are up to scratch!

What experience do I need to become a legal secretary?
Most law firms look to hire those with previous administration or secretarial experience. You need not have studied law or worked in the legal sector previously to become a legal secretary per se. Some firms do specify previous experience as they look to hire a natural self-starter for their private practice team. But having any kind of secretarial experience provides you with invaluable transferrable skills. What’s important is that if you do have previous experience, albeit in a different sector, that you make sure your background and relevant key skills stand out. Even for legal secretaries, there’s a lot of competition out there! If you’re lacking experience, get some temp office work under your belt – you can even do this within law firms. Or some voluntary support work will also steer you in the right direction. Look for other administrative openings in law firms too, such as administration assistant positions and work your way up to becoming a legal secretary.

How do I find the right legal secretary role for me?
Searching the leading job boards will always deliver plenty of results for legal secretaries, or other legal administration roles. But, if you’re very clear on forging a career as a secretary or even a PA or office manager within a law firm, then we recommend you work with a recruitment consultancy. The reason for that is you can get a better understanding of the bigger picture, of opportunities for not just the now, but considering the near future. Here at Interlink we specialise in the legal sector and have a dedicated Business Support team who are in regular contact with law firms about their support staffing needs. Our market knowledge allows us to share significant insights with you, including information about potential firms, teams, roles, salaries, benefits and more. Working with you to understand your skills, experience and career goals, we can guide you on relevant options based on our market knowledge and your desire to carve a career as a legal secretary.

If you are keen to pursue a career as a legal secretary, or you’re already working in that role and are looking to progress your career further, then speak with Jessica Penrice about opportunities for you. Interlink Recruitment operates a dedicated Legal Business Support division which sees us help law firms across the country with back-office staff needs. If you would like help sourcing a legal secretary or other administrative support for your law firm, contact us today.
Call Jessica on 0161 214 6117 or send an email to, jessicap@interlinkrecruitment.com


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