Career Profile: Legal Secretary

Career Profile: Legal Secretary

by Meghan Brown
Jobs People Do | JobsPeopleDo.com

If you are interested in Canadian law, but don’t want to go through the long process of a law degree and taking the bar exam to become a practicing lawyer, then working as a legal secretary might be the career for you.

One of several legal support roles, legal secretaries typically work in law firms and provide administrative and other assistance to lawyers and other law firm employees.  Many legal secretaries begin their career working in a small firm, and as they build experience they move into larger and more prestigious law firms.

It’s important to note the difference between legal secretaries and legal assistants or paralegals. These terms are often used interchangeably but do in fact describe two different legal support roles.  Specifically, legal assistants and paralegals have additional college or university-level education that allows them to give certain kinds of legal advice, and submit certain types of legal documentation, while legal secretaries can not do these tasks.

Responsibilities of legal secretaries include drafting correspondence and memos to clients and to other lawyers, organize client and case files, maintain client databases, take dictation and transcribe audio recordings of lawyer meetings. They will also maintain the lawyer’s schedule for client meetings, court appearances and other events.  In some cases, usually in smaller firms, legal secretaries can also assist in preparing invoices and billing clients.

Most legal secretaries will be employed directly by a law firm, but they can also be employed by court offices at the municipal, provincial and national level, or by companies that possess their own legal departments.

Some of the highlights of working as a legal secretary include being in a challenging environment that offers many different types of work, since all cases are different, and if you have a particular interest (such as financial, environmental, or employment law, for example) you can find a law office with that as it’s focus.  There is also lots of room for advancement in this career path, either working toward a more senior position in a single firm or moving into increasingly large and prestigious firms over time.

There are a few challenges to working as a legal secretary, as well.  Chief among these is the fact that the legal industry can be very stressful, as workloads can be heavy and subject to many overlapping deadlines.  This can result in long hours, especially when the lawyer you are assisting is involved in a court case or other intensive client file.

While specific experience in the legal field is usually not required to begin working as a legal secretary, many employers prefer to hire workers who have completed a one to two-year college diploma for secretarial, executive assistant, or legal secretary.

Salaries for legal secretaries range from around $27,000 for entry-level workers with limited experience and those working at smaller firms, up to $60,000 for those with some years of experience and working at a larger firm or company.  This is approximately starting at the hourly minimum wage for your province, up to around $25 per hour for those with experience.







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