Legal secretaries work closely with clients. Lawyers, notaries and judges rely on them heavily.
Legal secretaries work as assistants to lawyers, notaries and judges. They work on many files at the same time and keep a close eye on deadlines. They meet and work closely with clients. They are directly involved with clients’ problems and must often reassure them.
Legal secretaries write letters and format official documents for court. They must handle emergencies calmly.
Legal secretaries must have these skills:
- Good language skills: Legal secretaries must have mastery of the language and enjoy reading. Being bilingual is also important.
- Discretion: Legal secretaries must make sure client information is kept confidential.
- Organized: Legal secretaries must be able to deal with many clients at the same time, meet tight deadlines and keep track of what goes on.
- Detail-oriented: Accuracy is very important in law. Legal secretaries must pay careful attention to detail.
Legal secretaries perform secretarial tasks. For example they
- answer the phone and meet clients,
- write letters and
- organize agendas.
They also help lawyers and notaries with their legal work. These are some of their other responsibilities:
- prepare and format legal documents
- manage files and make sure deadlines are met
- collect amounts billed to clients
Legal secretaries usually work in these places:
- law firms, notarial firms and judges’ offices
- federal, provincial and municipal governments
There can be a lot of pressure in the legal work environment. This is especially true just before a trial and when there are many cases going on at the same time. But the working hours are reasonable, even in big law firms.
To become a legal secretary, you usually need an Attestation of Vocational Specialization (AVS) for legal secretarial work.
This is a 450-hour program offered by many schools in Quebec. The program is offered through the public and private school systems, in English and in French.
To apply to the program, you need a Diploma of Vocational Studies (DVS) for secretarial work or relevant work experience.
Some employers also hire paralegals as legal secretaries, especially in smaller offices.
Salaries for legal secretaries depend on the years of experience they have and where they work.
The average yearly salary of a recent graduate is between $30,000 and $35,000. Recent graduates working in a legal aid office in 2015 earn about $34,000 a year. As they gain experience, they can earn up to $45,000.
Legal secretaries who work for the government earn about the same amount.
In big law firms, experienced legal secretaries can earn more than $60,000 a year.
The Heading for Success website has information on legal secretaries, including a description of the work they do, job prospects and necessary training.
The École des métiers de l’informatique, du commerce et de l’administration (EMICA) offers a Programme de secretariat juridique (program of legal secretarial studies). Visit their website (in French only) to learn more about the program and what you need to get in.