Careers Career Paths Important Job Skills for Legal Secretaries Share PINTEREST Email Print zoranm / E+ / Getty Images Career Paths Legal Careers Technology Careers Sports Careers Sales Project Management Professional Writer Music Careers Media US Military Careers Government Careers Finance Careers Fiction Writing Careers Entertainment Careers Criminology Careers Book Publishing Aviation Animal Careers Advertising Learn More Table of Contents Expand Skills Legal Secretaries Need Types of Legal Secretary Skills Technology Interpersonal Written Communication Organization Transcription Attention to Detail Legal Documents and Terminology Teamwork Multitasking Research More Legal Secretary Skills By Alison Doyle Updated on 02/20/21 Not to be confused with paralegals, legal secretaries fill vital roles in law firms across the country. While paralegals often perform attorney duties under supervision from an attorney, legal secretaries must keep track of all details circling the law firm. Law has been and always will be a world of red tape and semantics. Attorneys must be fully prepared for each and every legal proceeding. As such, attorneys and paralegals alike depend heavily on their legal secretaries. What Kind of Skills Do You Need to Be a Legal Secretary? The role of legal secretaries, also known as attorney administrative assistants or legal assistants, has evolved in the past two decades. As with everything else, technology continues to transform the traditional law office. Legal secretaries must transcend conventional roles of typing and answering phones to overseeing high-value activities between attorneys and clients and with regard to legal proceedings. Legal secretaries do what any administrative assistant might do, except that the legal world is a bit more complicated. They perform secretarial duties using legal terminology, procedures, and documents. Legal secretaries also prepare legal papers and correspondence, including summonses, complaints, motions, and subpoenas. They may also assist with legal research. Types of Legal Secretary Skills Legal secretary roles have evolved over time. These skills will help you succeed in single attorney offices and in larger law firms. Technology Skills Many attorneys have neither the time nor expertise to operate law office technology well. They rely on tech-savvy legal secretaries to perform a variety of computer-based tasks such as building spreadsheets, preparing presentations, auditing timesheets, managing invoices, creating/typing documents, maintaining calendars, and tracking deadlines. Therefore, legal secretaries who are proficient in a variety of computer software applications will have the most career opportunities. Some of the most common technologies that legal secretaries must master include: Word Processing Software Microsoft Office Suite Presentation Information Management Digital File Organization Data Backup Software Billing Invoicing Transcription Desktop Publishing Videoconferencing Email Management Interpersonal Skills Legal secretaries interact daily with attorneys, paralegals, staff, clients, opposing counsel, judicial personnel, vendors, and more. Top-notch interpersonal and communication skills are essential. In addition to face-to-face contact, secretaries communicate by email, telephone, and video conferencing systems. Reception Phone Etiquette Oral Communication Emotional Intelligence Initiative Formality Bearing Written Communication Do you think that attorneys compose their own written correspondence? Think again. Legal secretaries are frequently responsible for drafting routine correspondence and file memos, in addition to proofreading legal documents for pleadings, briefs, discovery, and transactional purposes. Writing is an integral part of the legal secretary’s job; those that develop strong writing skills will become indispensable to the attorneys they assist. Email CompositionFollowing Strict Document FormatsAttention to DetailCover LettersStrong Grammar SkillsTranscription Organization Skills Since legal secretaries are the attorney’s “right-hand” person, organizational skills are essential to efficiently manage a law practice or corporate legal department. Legal secretaries must maintain paper and electronic files, manage projects, track multiple deadlines, maintain calendars, schedule meetings, organize events, and keep everything orderly and accessible. Attention to DetailCalendar ManagementFile ManagementConfidential Information ManagementTranscriptionProcess of Packaging and Sending Legal DocumentsReceiving and Organizing AffidavitsNote Taking Transcription Skills Transcription skills are foundational to secretarial practice. In addition to a fast typing speed (employer requirements vary from 50 to 100 words per minute), active listening skills are required to comprehend voice dictation files. Strong grammar, spelling, vocabulary, and language skills are necessary, as well as an understanding of legal terminology. As mentioned above, secretaries must be proficient in word processing applications and transcription equipment. Active ListeningTypingWord Processing SoftwareAudio Recording DevicesMemoryWritten Communication Attention to Detail Attention to detail is critical in the legal profession. For example, typing $600,000 in a settlement offer instead of $60,000 could cost your firm a client. Legal secretaries handle the minutiae of daily law practice, and attention to detail is important in nearly every secretarial task from drafting and proofreading documents to scheduling meetings and calendaring deadlines. Note TakingAttentiveAuditingInductive ReasoningDeductive ReasoningData EntryAccuracyProactive Familiarity With Legal Documents and Terminology What’s the difference between a secretary and a legal secretary? Legal secretaries are familiar with all things pertaining to law and court proceedings. Terms like “subpoena,” “pro se,” and “voir dire” don’t confuse legal secretaries. They understand the nuances of legal procedure and have the ability to create and format pleadings, discovery, and transactional documents. Trial BriefAmicus BriefAppellate BriefReply BriefInterrogatoriesAppeals ProcessWills & TestamentsLegal Complaints, Appeals, & AnswersQuitclaim DeedWarranty DeedRequesting Subpoenas Teamwork Teamwork is crucial to the role of legal secretaries in delivering legal services. In all practice settings—from large corporate legal departments to solo practitioners—legal secretaries must team with attorneys, paralegals, secretaries, file clerks, vendors, and others to deliver legal services effectively. The most efficient legal secretaries know how to get along with co-workers and collaborate with third parties to get the job done. Active ListeningOral CommunicationWritten CommunicationProblem SensitivityCollaboration Multitasking Skills Most legal secretaries work for more than one person on more than one file. Performing multiple tasks simultaneously should be second-nature to a competent legal secretary. They know how to juggle multiple assignments and competing priorities and how to manage growing workloads in today’s busy law office, where one person frequently performs the job of three. Attention to DetailTime ManagementPrioritizationDelegationSchedulingStress Tolerance Research Skills Legal secretaries perform Internet research for a multitude of tasks such as finding directions, gathering client information, researching the competition, and locating expert witnesses. Many legal secretaries, particularly those in small law offices, also perform paralegal duties, including legal research, cite checking, and tracking down case law. Learning legal research platforms such as Westlaw or Lexis/Nexis can give you a competitive edge. Reading ComprehensionInterviewingNote TakingNoticing TrendsData AnalysisInductive ReasoningDeductive ReasoningResearch Law Software More Legal Secretary Skills TroubleshootingSocial Media ManagementProofreadingRevisingDraftingSpellingProper Use of Search EnginesReport WritingFinal Manuscript ProductionMark-upsDevelop and Maintain Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)DeadlinesMultilingualFriendlinessAdaptabilityEfficiencyCritical ThinkingComplianceBookkeepingProfessionalismCustomer ServiceResiliencePretrial AgreementsFax MachinesMaintain Law LibrariesManage Case FilesLexisNexisPACER How to Make Your Skills Stand Out Add Relevant Skills to Your Resume: Be sure to highlight the skills above in your summary and work history. Law firms care about your experience and attention to detail, particularly in how you construct your resume.Highlight Skills in Your Cover Letter: Do not waste words in your letter. Since creating cover letters is a significant part of your job as a legal assistant, stick to the point and demonstrate your ability to be clear and direct.Use Skill Words in Your Job Interview: Be prepared to discuss types of projects you’ve managed in other roles without violating a client’s confidentiality at other law firms. Do not be afraid to describe how you used the skills above in other roles outside of the legal world if the experience is applicable to the role you seek.