On the Job
Legal secretaries perform clerical duties in law offices. They must be familiar with legal procedures.
At some courthouses and large law firms, the paperwork and files that need to be stored can take up an entire floor of an office. Yes, that's right -- an entire floor! We all know legal matters can be very complex. Even more simple ones, such as wills, require many kinds of documents. Legal secretaries not only help manage these files, they help with many aspects of legal proceedings. They are to lawyers what nurses are to doctors: indispensable.Legal secretaries help lawyers by preparing and processing legal documents, such as appeals and motions. They also fill out forms, such as accident reports, for clients. Depending on the attorneys they work for, secretaries may take dictation. However, most secretaries listen to tape recordings of letters and memos the attorneys dictate. They use computers to transcribe this information and create other legal documents. Legal secretaries make photocopies of legal documents, letters, and other case material. They put copies of all information in clients' case files, and make sure documents are arranged in a logical order.
Legal secretaries interact with clients in many ways. They greet clients when they first arrive at the office. They answer phones, schedule appointments, and set up court appearances. Legal secretaries attend legal meetings, such as client interviews, hearings, or depositions, to take notes. They also mail, fax, or arrange for delivery of legal documents to clients, witnesses, and court officials.
Legal secretaries help lawyers find relevant information for cases. They use databases to search for laws and court decisions that apply to their cases. Legal secretaries also use reference books to check on legal rules. In addition, they collect information, such as employment, medical, and criminal records. They organize all of this information for lawyers to review and approve.
In larger offices, legal secretaries have more duties. They may supervise staff. They may also organize and order new books for the law library.
The following list of occupational tasks is specific to this career.
- Prepare and process legal documents and papers, such as summonses, subpoenas, complaints, appeals, and motions.
- Take dictation or listen to tapes made by lawyers. Transcribe information into memos, letters, and other documents.
- Photocopy documents and put them in case files.
- Welcome clients and answer telephone calls.
- Schedule court appearances and make appointments for clients.
- Attend legal meetings, such as depositions.
- Complete forms, such as accident reports, for clients.
- Mail, fax, or arrange for delivery of legal correspondence.
- Assist lawyers in collecting information, such as employment, medical, and other records.
- Review legal publications and perform database searches. Find laws and court decisions relevant to cases.
- Use reference books to check on legal procedures.
- Submit articles and information from searches to lawyers for review.
- Organize and maintain law libraries.
- May supervise other staff.
People in this career perform the following list of tasks, but the tasks are common to many occupations.
- Use computers.
- Organize, plan, and prioritize work.
- Perform administrative tasks.
- Communicate with supervisors, peers, or subordinates.
- Document and record information.
- Get information needed to do the job.
- Communicate with people from outside the organization.
- Establish and maintain relationships.
- Process information.
- Update and use job-related knowledge.
- Identify objects, actions, and events.
- Evaluate information against standards.
- Schedule work and activities.
- Analyze data or information.
- Make decisions and solve problems.
- Think creatively.
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Have a high level of interaction with clients and staff.
- Communicate by telephone, letters, memos, and in person on a daily basis. They also use e-mail, but less often.
- Often work indoors. However, they may occasionally go outdoors to deliver documents or attend meetings at other firms.
- Work near others. They may share the same office space or general work area with other secretaries.
- Must be very exact in their work. Errors could cause serious problems for clients or their cases.
- Repeat the same physical or mental activities.
- Often make decisions that affect clients and the lawyers they work with. They make most decisions without consulting a supervisor first.
- Set most of their daily tasks and goals without consulting a supervisor first. They often use calendars of impending cases to determine their schedule.
- Abide by strict daily deadlines.
- May work full time or part time. Most work full time.
- Generally work a set schedule.
- May work nights or weekends to meet deadlines.
Physical Work Conditions
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Sit for long periods of time.
- Repeat the same motions.
- Use their hands to handle, control, or feel objects, tools, or controls.
- See details of objects that are less than a few feet away.
- Understand the speech of another person.
- Speak clearly so listeners can understand.
- See details of objects that are more than a few feet away.
- Use fingers to grasp, move, or assemble objects.
- Make fast, repeated movements of fingers, hands, and wrists.
People in this career frequently:
It is important for people in this career to be able to:
It is not as important, but still necessary, for people in this career to be able to:
Source: Minnesota Department of Education.