How to become a legal secretary in 3 steps (plus duties)

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Updated 24 July 2023

A woman wearing a purple blazer sits at a desk and writes on a piece of paper.

A legal secretary is a highly skilled and experienced professional who helps ensure the day-to-day operations of a law firm are running smoothly. They're responsible for making sure all the documents produced by lawyers and other legal employees are accurate, well-organised and delivered on time. Learning more about the role of a legal secretary can help you determine if the role is suitable to your skills and goals. 

In this article, we examine how to become a legal secretary with a look at some of their main duties.

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How to become a legal secretary

Here's how to become a legal secretary:

1. Complete a Legal Secretaries Diploma course

It's important to complete a Legal Secretaries Diploma course before becoming a legal secretary because the nationally recognised qualification can help you gain the skills and knowledge necessary to be competent in this role. The course aims to teach students various areas of law, the history of law and how it’s evolved, legal document production and how to complete legal forms. This enables students to gain a good understanding of the law and be able to perform the everyday tasks of a legal secretary.

Getting a Legal Secretaries Diploma

There are no entry requirements for the course, however, the Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs recommends that you have a good typing speed, computer literacy, an understanding of Microsoft Word and a good standard of spoken and written English.

Related: What is a diploma? (With types and career opportunities)

2. Complete an apprenticeship as a legal secretary at a professional law firm

Employers sometimes look for employees who have previously completed an apprenticeship as a legal secretary at a professional law firm when hiring for this role. This is because an apprenticeship allows candidates to gain the skills and knowledge necessary to work as a legal secretary. The apprenticeship programme also gives individuals the opportunity to work directly with legal professionals. Apprentices also learn about their roles in the firm and how they're expected to interact with employees. This experience helps apprentices to understand how their role fits into the firm's operations overall.

Related: How to become an apprentice in 3 simple steps

Completing an apprenticeship as a legal secretary at a professional law firm

There are several different types of law an apprentice can work in, including commercial law and family law, but the most common option is personal injury law. If an apprentice wants to work for a particular branch of law, it's necessary for them to seek a relevant apprenticeship in that specific area. To get an apprenticeship position, apprentices should have at least five GCSE grades at a C/4 or above, including in English and maths. Depending on the provider, it's also necessary for apprentices to have a certain amount of experience working in an office environment.

Related: How to write an apprenticeship cover letter (with examples)

3. Gain relevant experience working as a legal secretary

Working as a legal secretary is a great way to gain experience in the field. It's not necessary to have experience working as a legal secretary. You can gain relevant experience by working as an administrative assistant or as a receptionist at a law firm. When applying for positions as a legal secretary, employers are looking for candidates who have similar work experience and are familiar with the relevant laws and procedures. Having worked as a legal secretary before shows an employer that you have the skills needed to succeed in this position.

Gaining relevant experience working as a legal secretary

If you're considering a career as a legal secretary, you may have already started looking for ways to gain relevant experience. To do this, consider taking on part-time work in the legal industry. You can do this by applying for positions at law firms or by working at non-profit organisations that offer legal services. Another option is to volunteer your time and skills by helping lawyers with their casework. This is useful, as it gives you some insight into what it's like working with lawyers. In some cases, it leads to full-time employment with these organisations.

Related: Types of law work experience to advance your career

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What does a legal secretary do?

A legal secretary provides administrative and clerical support to legal professionals. Here are the primary duties of a legal secretary:

Drafting letters and other legal documents

A legal secretary drafts letters, contracts and other legal documents relevant to the legal department they are working in and the client's needs. They gather information about the case relevant to the document. This includes notes from meetings with clients or colleagues as well as dictations. Drafts are often made of important documents and shared with colleagues for feedback or revisions. They can work closely with lawyers to ensure that the work is done efficiently and correctly. High attention to detail is required in this role.

Related: What does a legal secretary do? (Job description and duties)

Maintaining case files and calendars

A legal secretary maintains case files and calendars by keeping them up to date and organised. To do this, they maintain all the information related to a case, including client information, billing records and important documents. This includes everything from client contracts to witness summons and other court documents. A legal secretary ensures their team has access to these documents, as this means they can work efficiently with minimal mistakes or confusion in any given case.

Researching legal matters and preparing materials for court

Another of a legal secretary's duties can be to research legal matters. They do this by reading court documents and case law, looking up laws and statutes and researching the history of cases similar to the one they are handling. The legal secretary then prepares materials for court by typing them or copying them from other documents. They also prepare court bundles for cases so that this is available for lawyers as and when they need such materials.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.


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