On a day-to-day basis, legal secretaries generally perform the following duties:
- Drafting, filing, and organizing legal documents like contracts, briefs, client files, trial materials, and more.
- Corresponding with all parties involved in proceedings, like clients, courts, and lawyers.
- Coordinating and scheduling meeting times with all parties
- Administrative duties like greeting clients, answering phones, and processing mail
- Billing and invoicing clients
- Doing legal research
- Coordinating the schedule of lawyers and/or other people at the institution
These tasks may change based on the firm or institution. Some legal secretaries will assist with more hands-on legal briefings than others, while some may focus more on administrative duties. Either way, these secretaries must have an effective partnership with who they support.
So before you assess what skills you need to look for in a legal secretary, you first need to settle on what you want an incoming legal secretary to do. In any case, though, there are some general through lines for all the duties of a quality legal secretary. Let’s get into those.
Primary Legal Secretary Skills
Legal secretaries are often the first person a client sees when they walk into a law office. They also spend time representing lawyers, the law firm, or other institutions when it comes to scheduling meetings, drafting briefs, and other crucial tasks. This means legal secretaries needs a breadth or hard and soft skills.
Here are 15 legal secretary skills that generally cover the duties of the job.
Legal Secretary Soft Skills
- Strong communication: All forms—written, verbal, non-verbal, listening. Not only is this important to properly write legal briefs and contracts, strong communication is prevalent in a legal secretary’s day-to-day dealings with clients. There aren’t many more fields that need clear communication than in the legal profession.
- Multitasking: Lawyers often have multiple cases—often dozens—going on at the same time. A great legal secretary will be able to multitask across cases, knowing intimate details of each one.
- Organizational skills: Piggybacking off the previous skill, staying organized will help a legal secretary multitask. Organization comes in handy across the profession, from getting a lawyer’s schedule in order to knowing where files are stored.
- Ability to work under pressure/tight deadlines: As mentioned before, lawyers often have lots of cases going at once. The legal process can sometimes move quickly, and accuracy can never be thrown to the wayside. A legal secretary must be able to work with tight deadlines and the pressure that can come with them.
- Interpersonal skills: The words and actions of lawyers affect peoples’ lives. If someone is dealing with a lawyer or the court system, it’s likely a sensitive subject—people don’t go to court for fun. Because legal secretaries can often be client-facing, strong interpersonal skills can go a long way with regards to empathy, friendliness, and needing to be clear and stern when needed.
- Flexibility: Court dates often change. The needs of clients (and lawyers) can change, too. Legal secretaries must be able to be flexible with the current task at hand and prioritize the most important assignment.
- Quality teamwork and partnership: Being able to work together well with lawyers and other administrative team members will help a legal secretary maximize their abilities.
- Listening and memory skills: Legal secretaries often record and transcribe notes with and for a lawyer. They must be able to listen to clients, understand what is important, and be able to remind coworkers of what occurred in meetings. These will all help in a secretary’s ability to communicate across the board.
Legal Secretary Hard Skills
- Familiarity with organizational tools: If organization is a vital soft skill, knowing how to work within organizational platforms in a necessary hard skill. This can include a host of tools like Asana, Jira, Calendly, and any other platform that organizes projects and has calendar functions.
- Familiarity with legal software: Legal writing and researching occurs in tools less common to the general public. Legal secretaries can learn these tools, but it’s a plus if they have experience with these software (or similar software).
- Attention to detail: A wrong word in a legal filing—even if it’s an accident—can be disastrous. Legal secretaries must have strong attention to detail for fact checking, maintaining professionalism, and ensuring accuracy across all duties.
- Visitor management skills: We mentioned interpersonal skills and a soft skill for this profession. Actually managing visitors to an office is a more specific hard skill. The legal realm can be scary for a lot of people experiencing it. A quality legal secretary will be able to manage visitors to a firm, at court, or otherwise, with care and clear direction.
- Transcribing: This is another soft skill come to life in a specific task. Transcribing and note taking are vital to the profession in meetings, briefings, interviews, and more.
- Data entry/filing: Legal secretaries need to take all this information—transcriptions, briefs, client files, schedules, etc.—and enter them into their proper databases, whether that’s an Excel sheet, a calendar, a Word document, or a form at the courthouse. And that leads to…
- Microsoft 365 or other productivity software: Proficiency with Microsoft tools (or other productivity software) is beneficial for this job—both in client-related tasks and administrative duties.
Are You Looking to Add Talent?
Does a legal secretary need to check every single one of these boxes for your firm? Perhaps they do. Maybe you’re looking for something more entry-level. But remember, you need to know what kind of role you need before you start sourcing candidates.
We can help with that. If you’re looking to hire a legal secretary (or paralegal, or another lawyer), we have thousands of recruiters who are eager to help you find what you need.
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