Legal Secretary: Are They Paralegals or Legal Assistants?

Legal Assistant

Legal Secretary: Are They Paralegals or Legal Assistants?

What is a Legal Secretary?

legal secretary is an essential member of the legal profession who keeps departments and firms working smoothly. Legal secretaries assist lawyers and handle critical administrative tasks. They must be familiar with the law, legal jargon, procedures, and documentation.

There are many areas of law and practice, such as family, probate, conveyancing, litigation, and criminal law. Legal secretaries can work in a variety of legal settings in addition to law firms. Thus, the position and its responsibilities can vary greatly. For example, the type of clients and cases change dramatically based on the area of law. Additionally, some secretaries may find themselves working in court more than in the office while others will have more direct contact with clients.

However, a legal can expect the same kinds of duties regardless of the practice.

What Do Legal Secretaries Do?

Legal secretaries are responsible for a variety of tasks. For example, they’ll need to find and fill out legal forms, draft professional communications, interact with clients, and more. Additionally, they’ll relieve lawyers of time-consuming tasks such as filing, photocopying, scheduling meetings, and conducting research.

As legal secretaries are frequently a firm’s first person of contact, they must be well-informed and confident in any situation. Attorneys rely on their secretaries to guarantee their clients are cared for. Also, secretaries don’t just speak to clients. They speak to and schedule meetings with other firms, opposing counsel, and more. Basically, legal secretaries speak to anyone who comes in or calls in and gets them where they need to be.

Furthermore, secretaries are responsible for recording and relaying information. Beyond taking messages for attorneys, some legal secretaries will also attend court and take notes, write case briefs, and complete vital research. Truly, they can function as the glue that holds a case together.

Daily, a secretary’s duties and responsibilities can change based on the needs of their department. Working as a legal will expose you to a wide range of legal procedures and allow you to gain expertise in various fields.

What Qualifications Do You Need to Be a Legal?

To work in this role, you must have the following qualifications:

  • Working knowledge of the law and legal procedures
  • Administrative experience, such as scheduling and filling out forms
  • Ability to type with high speed and accuracy
  • Formal writing skills
  • Computer literacy
  • Proficiency in the English language
  • Excellent attention to detail and organizational skills
  • Strong communication skills
  • Team player

Many firms prefer prior experience or training to become a legal secretary. If you do not have prior experience you should consider pursuing a certificate or an associate or bachelor’s degree.

How Do You Become a Civil Secretary?

Although there are no industry-wide entry criteria, most civil secretary jobs demand a high school diploma and proven strength in the vital skills listed above. Often, these skills are proven through prior experience. On the other hand, some businesses may need a university diploma or certification.

For example, a Legal Secretary undergraduate certificate will teach you essential legal and practical skills. Such certificates not only open a door into the field of law but can be a stepping stone into further education, such as a degree.

Either of these paths will assist you in gaining significant knowledge, abilities, and technical competence that will help you pursue and advance your legal career.

Where Do Legal Secretaries Work?

The talents and services of skilled legal secretaries are not limited to law firms. Rather, legal secretaries have the freedom to select a work environment that best suits them. Their skills are often required by the following employers:

  • Courts of law
  • Large enterprises and organizations’ legal divisions
  • Local governments
  • Real estate agents
  • Banks

Legal secretaries can also work for or even run their own Legal Virtual Assistant firms. Virtual assistant positions allow secretaries to work from home, the main office, or travel from firm to firm. Basically, this type of work allows you to gain even more varied experience, build up a network, and work from the comfort of your home.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Legal Writer?

Firms, agencies, and other employers have different experience requirements for possible secretaries. However, you can expect most to mandate 2 to 3 years minimum of prior legal or administrative work.

If you already have this experience and chance on your side, you may only need a few days to acquire a legal secretary position.

On the other hand, you can earn your certificate or degree within weeks to two years. You may find courses and programs available that take as few as 8 to 16 weeks. Alternatively, an associate degree takes around a year to complete. Some firms may offer apprenticeships, which can run up to 18 months.

What Does a Legal Get Paid?

As of March 2022, legal secretaries earn 21 to 28 dollars per hour. According to, the average hourly wage is $25 per hour. This number adds up to around $52,000 annually. However, this number can change depending on the amount of experience, level of education, location, and the type of firm you work for. Some experienced legal secretaries make as much as $81,000 each year.

What are the Opportunities for a Legal Secretary’s Career?

A career as a legal secretary can open many doors for new experiences and opportunities. For example, you may find yourself wishing to pursue other legal positions. Through your experience or higher education, you can pursue a profession as a paralegal. Alternatively, many legal secretaries and paralegals will use their experience to become lawyers themselves. Truly, the experience you can as a legal is invaluable in law school and beyond.

Additionally, if you wish to move out of the field of law, your skills transfer easily to other industries. For example, you may use your experience to work as an office manager, secretary, or personal assistant.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs) of Legal Secretary

1) Does a legal secretary need a degree? 

You don’t need a college diploma to work as a legal secretary. Nonetheless, obtaining a certificate can assist you in gaining the relevant information and abilities for the job. A degree improves your chances of finding a job and results in higher pay.

2) Can you be a legal secretary with no experience? 

You can become a legal secretary with little to no experience by taking a course, finishing an apprenticeship, or landing an entry-level position with your excellent administrative abilities.

3) Is being a legal secretary stressful?

Yes. As with many legal positions, the job of a legal secretary is considered high stress. Mistakes can have serious consequences for clients, lawyers, and your case. For example, legal secretaries must be very organized and keep files and documents in check. If you lose, misplace, or incorrectly file a document, it can have dire consequences in court.

4) Is a legal secretary a promising career? 

Yes. The position is a well-paying job that requires only a high school diploma and some prior experience. Law firms and lawyers value good legal secretaries and reward them with pay increases, bonuses, and other incentives. Additionally, as we mentioned, the job opens the doors to several other possibilities. While you may start as a secretary, you may soon find yourself pursuing a job as a paralegal or even an attorney.

5) Is a legal secretary the same as a paralegal?

No, although many people mix up the two terms. The confusion mainly comes from the fact that some firms do not differentiate between the titles. Additionally, the responsibilities of a paralegal and a legal secretary often overlap. Sometimes, the positions are almost identical. However, there is an important distinction between the two.

Paralegals must pass the National Association of Legal Assistants exam or NALA. Legal secretaries, on the other hand, need only a high school diploma and relevant experience.

Additionally, paralegals do hold more duties and are often more involved in each case. For example, a paralegal drafts legal documents and conducts far more research. As such, the position pays more than the legal secretary job.

Notably, some firms hire legal assistants with a plan to have them seek their paralegal certification while employed.

The career of a legal secretary is highly rewarding and easy to get into. If you do not have prior experience or wish to learn more before joining the field of law, you can see certification to prepare. Additionally, the position helps you prepare for other jobs, such as that of a paralegal.

Whether you’re interested in becoming a legal assistant or a paralegal, Lakewood University has certificate and degree programs to help you start your new career. Enquire today.