When most people hear the term secretary, they immediately think of the men and women who answer phones and greet them when they enter an office, but a legal secretary is responsible for many other duties around an attorney’s office. These workers are responsible for some secretarial and administrative work, but they also handle issues relating to clients and possess an understanding of legal terminology, which lets them work on paperwork attorneys need. Before applying for a job in this field, make sure you understand everything that legal assistants and secretaries do on a daily basis.
Working with Clients
Secretaries act as the public faces of an office. Clients entering these offices often feel frustrated, angry and experience a wide range of other emotions. It is your job to make them feel calm and prepare them for meeting with an attorney. You might get them something to eat or drink, ask a few questions to update their files and ensure that they are calm enough to handle meeting with an attorney. Legal secretaries also give clients information regarding upcoming appointments and contact them over the phone or via email when needed.
Administrative and Clerical Work
Working as a secretary in a legal office means that you are also responsible for some administrative and clerical work. Secretaries answer the phone, take messages and pass those messages along to those working in the office, and they may also check emails and pass along important messages found in those accounts. They are also responsible for answering phones and talking with existing and new clients. Some offices also put secretaries in charge of filing documents and doing some light maintenance and janitorial work. You might find yourself straightening magazines, emptying the trash, vacuuming or sweeping the floors and ensuring the lobby looks nice for clients.
The understanding of legal terminology that you have can also help you as a legal assistant. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many secretaries help attorneys draft legal documents and paperwork that they send to clients or to the court. This can include summons that alert witnesses of when they need to appear in court and lawsuits that allow the lawyer to file a suit in a local courtroom. Some offices give secretaries the right to draft and edit those documents. A licensed attorney will then view the paperwork and request any changes before sending that paperwork to a client or judge.
Though it might not sound very exciting, a legal secretary is usually responsible for keeping track of the schedules of any attorneys or other employees working in the office. The detailed schedule should include any personal obligations the lawyer has, when he or she must appear in court, client appointments and anything else the lawyer does during an average week. Most schedules are now available online, and some offices require that secretaries update those schedules within minutes of any new changes. They are also responsible for keeping track of schedules when an attorney goes on vacation or works on a case in another city or state.
The legal field consists of more than just lawyers. Attorneys also need secretaries, assistants and paralegals to assist them in various ways around the office. Some of the duties of a legal secretary may include meeting with clients, filing documents, drafting paperwork and maintaining schedules.