How to become a legal secretary. Read through our comprehensive job guide to learn more about this career.
What does a Legal Secretary do?
As a legal secretary, you would provide administrative support for lawyers and legal executives, and help with the day-to-day tasks involved in running a legal firm.
Your main task would be to type letters and other legal documents such as wills, contracts and court papers, often working from notes dictated onto audiotape. Your other duties could include:
- answering telephone calls, letters, faxes and e-mails
- organising diaries and making appointments
- preparing court forms and statements
- keeping records of costs and controlling petty cash
- dealing with enquiries from clients
- attending court or police cells with solicitors
- delivering and collecting documents
- filing and other general clerical work.
If you worked in a small local law firm, you would develop experience in a wide range of legal matters, whilst in larger firms you would tend to specialise in a particular area of law.
In a full-time job you would typically work standard office hours, Monday to Friday. Part-time and temporary work are also often available.
You would be mainly office-based, but may also travel around your local area to deliver documents, visit police stations or attend court.
How much does a Legal Secretary earn?
Salary and pay information:
- Starting salaries can be between £17,000 and £21,000 a year, depending on your location.
- With experience, this can rise to between £22,000 and £33,000.
- Highly-qualified legal secretaries in top law firms could earn up to £46,000 a year.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
Employers will expect a good standard of literacy, and you may have an advantage with GCSE (A-C) in English, or a similar level of qualification.
You will usually need experience of office work, plus accurate typing skills. You would also have an advantage with audio transcription skills. Temporary office work (known as ‘temping’) is a good way of getting relevant experience. Full- and part-time courses in computer and secretarial skills are widely available at local colleges.
You may find it useful to take a recognised legal secretarial course before you look for work. However, this is not always essential if you have good general administrative skills.
You may be able to get into secretarial work through an Apprenticeship scheme. The range of Apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local jobs market and the types of skills employers need from their workers. For more information, visit the Apprenticeships website.
Training and Development
Your training would usually be a combination of learning on the job from experienced staff, and studying for a recognised legal secretarial qualification such as:
- Institute of Legal Executives (ILEX)/City & Guilds Level 2 Certificate/Diploma for Legal Secretaries
- ILEX/City & Guilds Level 3 Certificate/Diploma for Legal Secretaries
- Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs Legal Secretaries Diploma.
You can study for the courses part-time at many local colleges in the UK, or by distance learning.
The Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs also offers a range of single-subject certificates and diplomas in areas like conveyancing or corporate law, which would be useful if you wanted to specialise in a particular area of law.
See the ILEX and Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs websites for more details.
You could also take short courses in audio transcription and legal word processing part-time at local colleges.
With further training and qualifications, you could become a legal executive, paralegal or licensed conveyancer. You could also choose to study further and qualify as a solicitor or barrister. See the related profiles for more information.
Skills and Knowledge
- excellent secretarial skills
- computer literacy
- a high level of accuracy and attention to detail
- discretion, for dealing with confidential information
- a good standard of spelling and grammar
- the ability to work to deadlines
- the ability to work well as part of a team and also on your own
- a polite, helpful manner.
As well as solicitors’ offices and barristers’ chambers, you could work for law courts, local authorities, estate agents or the police.
Jobs may be advertised in the local press, in Jobcentre Plus, and by the many specialist legal recruitment agencies.
With experience you could progress to senior secretary, PA or office manager in larger firms. With further training you could move into other legal work such as legal executive or paralegal.