With major investment in the legal sector having taken place in the UK over the last few years, more and more secure, well-paid and challenging job opportunities at all levels have opened up.
Here’s how you can go about landing one of them – in the latest in our series of employment tips articles, which looks at how to become a legal secretary:
What does a legal secretary do?
A legal secretary essentially provides administrative support to a team of lawyers within a firm. Duties include everything from letter and email writing, answering phones and other general office duties (like photocopying, printing, preparing and binding documents and managing stationery requirements) to running a lawyer’s busy schedule, arranging important meetings or even heading to the courtroom or a police cell to help a solicitor. A lynchpin of the firm, basically, without whom everything else would quickly fall apart.
What skills do you need?
Strong administrative skills and total mastery of Office – from Word to Excel via Powerpoint – are an absolute must. Being highly literate, ultra-organised, efficient and completely and utterly unflappable are also essential traits. Making basic organisational or clerical errors in a high-pressure situation when a multi-million pound case is on the line is simply not an option.
What sort of qualifications are required?
As with any job at a good company, decent GCSEs and A Levels are a requirement – with a particular emphasis on English GCSEs and almost certainly A Level English and Law. After that, a legal secretary course is always likely to make your CV stand out from the crowd.
How do you start out?
First things first, you’ll probably need a spot of general secretarial or admin work under your belt. Once you’ve done this (something that can easily be tied in with studying), the government’s apprentices website (Apprenticeships.org.uk) offers a variety of opportunities to get started. Beyond that, a good way to start out on the actual path to becoming a legal secretary is with a spell of temping.
How much does a legal secretary earn?
Salaries obviously vary significantly depending on where you are in the UK/world. A junior legal secretary in London, for instance, can expect to earn £16-20 per hour or a starting salary of around £20-25,000. An experienced and highly skilled senior legal secretary on the other hand might expect to earn in the region of £40,000 per year.
What’s the career progression like?
Good, in a word. The interesting thing about the role is the way in which it can lead onto other things (should you want it to). After several years of working competently in a firm – and getting a reputation as a safe pair of hands – the opportunities to move into a well-paid office manager’s position or become PA to a partner frequently open up. You can even (with the right training along the way) graduate up to a paralegal or full legal executive’s role.
Where can I find legal secretary jobs?
All the main job sites like Reed, Indeed and Monster offer a variety of temp and full-time legal secretary and PA jobs. Specialists like Career Legal (Careerlegal.co.uk), Totally Legal (Totallylegal.com), Secs in the City (Secsinthecity.co.uk) and Simply Law Jobs (Simplylawjobs.com) are likely to have some jobs that other sites with broader job offerings might not.
Beyond job sites, recruitment companies regularly scour LinkedIn for likely candidates to fill vacant positions. So making sure your profile is up-to-date and provides would-be employers with every possible incentive to ask you along for an interview (i.e. listing full qualifications, employment history and a generally strong page) is vital.
Like our guide to how to become a legal secretary? Enrol in one of our Level 3 legal secretary courses online.