Legal secretaries have very different jobs compared to your average office secretary. Through their activities at work, they play a crucial role in ensuring that the legal system functions properly. Read on to discover what a legal secretary actually does, and what a typical day might look like.
What are a legal secretary’s responsibilities?
Legal secretaries do administrative work at law firms or at courts, assisting legal professionals with various duties. These could include:
- Preparing legal papers such as summonses and subpoenas
- Collecting information needed for a case, such as medical records or accident reports
- Preparing documents that lawyers will need in court
- Making appointments with clients, witnesses or court officials
- Answering and making phone calls
- Attending court in order to take notes
- Assisting with legal research relating to cases
- Keeping documents organised
Legal secretaries have to be highly professional, efficient and organised. The tasks they carry out are very important for the effective functioning of the law firm, and for representing clients. If mistakes are made or work is not completed in time, then the law firm’s reputation could be severely damaged.
What does a typical day involve?
There are various fields of law, each of which has its own unique requirements. If you end up being a legal secretary, this is what a day may look like for you at a law firm:
08h00: Check your emails to see whether there are any new messages from clients, colleagues or your superiors. Respond to the most important emails first and carry out any actions that might need to be taken urgently.
08h30: You set up various appointments with clients who need to meet with an attorney at the law firm.
09h30: The attorney you’re assigned to needs some important documents for a case he is attending in court today. You print out all the documents and arrange them neatly into a file that he can take into court with him.
10h00: You get a call from a client who is facing charges of fraud and will be appearing in court soon. You ask him to send you relevant financial records that can be viewed by the attorneys and used to defend the client.
11h00: You go with your attorney into court, in order to take notes about a case, including the additional documents or details that are needed, and the date of the next court appearance.
13h00: Another client is involved in a case in which he was allegedly run over by a drunk driver. You phone the police in order to request accident reports, and contact the hospital for medical records that will be needed by the attorneys.
14h00: You’re asked to do some legal research relating to another case. Your goal is to find out whether there are any legal precedents that have been set in previous cases which could potentially help with the case your law firm is working on. You find several relevant cases in the online databases of the Southern African Legal Information Institute, and relay the information to the attorney.
15h30: You contact several witnesses that have said that they will testify in court in defense of one of the firm’s clients. You set up appointments for them to meet with the attorney.
16h00: You check your emails one last time and have a look at your diary to see that all necessary appointments have been made and important tasks completed.
Good legal secretaries are highly valued by law firms. If you can prove that you’re trustworthy, hardworking and have a meticulous eye for detail, then the chances are good that your employers will reward you.
If being a legal secretary sounds like the perfect career for you, then take the first step by enrolling for a legal secretary national qualification.