legal-secretary
How to Become a

Legal Assistant or Secretary

The complete career guide to be a Legal Assistant or Secretary: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $52,390
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • 7.6%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • Don't Take Work Home
    Career Attribute

Legal assistants and secretaries perform administrative support for law firms and lawyers. They take incoming calls to the law office, schedule appointments between clients and lawyers, and schedule sessions in courts. They may also handle all office paperwork and filing responsibilities.


What is a Legal Assistant or Secretary?

The following job responsibilities are common for individuals in legal assistant or secretary roles:

  • Serve as the face of the office to clients, greeting clients when they arrive, answering incoming phone calls, and scheduling appointments with lawyers on behalf of clients
  • Work with court administrative personnel to schedule hearings, trials, jury selection, and other court sessions on behalf of lawyers
  • Manage office paperwork, including client files, evidence storage, and research paperwork
  • File legal documents with courts or other legal agencies
  • Handle office billing, creating and sending bills to clients for services performed, and processing payments

A Day in the Life

Legal assistants and secretaries manage the front offices at law firms and lawyer’s offices. One of the most important tasks of a legal assistant is to manage the calendars of the lawyers they support. This requires scheduling new and existing client meetings, setting aside time for court appearances and trials, and setting up time with judges, opposing attorneys, witnesses, and clients. This requires a lot of scheduling and rescheduling work to ensure lawyers can complete all tasks without being overbooked.

Legal secretaries are also commonly responsible for managing and organizing all office paperwork. They inform new clients of the paperwork they’ll need to bring to the office, and collect that paperwork upon arrival. They ensure that all paperwork is filed correctly and accessible when needed. They also process evidence and research documents and ensure these are safely filed until needed. They may also perform work to bill clients and collect overdue payments when clients are in default on fees owed to the lawyer.

Legal assistants and secretaries must be effective communicators and negotiators because they frequently must find mutually beneficial agreements between multiple parties. They may need to work to schedule a time for a hearing that meets the needs of a lawyer, an opposing lawyer, a judge, and clients on both sides of an issue or disagreement. This can require scheduling and rescheduling appointments, so the assistant must be prepared to negotiate times effectively and with grace.

Typical Work Schedule

Legal assistant and secretaries typically have to work full-time following the regular working schedule of 40 – 50 hours per week. However, you may have to work longer hours which includes working during evenings or weekends in order to meet various deadlines. The job requires excellent skills in time and stress management. The job may become demanding as the work may become fast-paced and in most days. You usually have to work on multiple projects under tight deadlines and you should consider this if you want to advance in your career.

Projected job growth

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of legal assistants in general is expected to increase by 10 % from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than the average for all other occupations. More legal assistant secretaries will be hired because law firms keep trying to increase the efficiency of legal services while reducing their costs. This is particularly important as the competition in the field grow while clients push for less expensive legal services. Legal assistants can help clients lower their billing costs by completing some of the legal tasks.

Additionally, many large corporations are increasing their in-house legal departments in order to cut costs.

Typical Employers

The main employers of legal assistant secretaries are different law firms where they are responsible for many of the legal services. They can also work for the federal government as well as the local government and state government. Some may be employed by the legal teams of different companies. This includes finance and insurance firms, consulting firms, and healthcare providers which opens many opportunities for graduates in this field.


How To Become a Legal Assistant or Secretary

It’s possible to become a legal assistant or secretary with only a high school diploma. To succeed in the field with no formal postsecondary education usually requires professional experience working as a receptionist or administrative assistant in an office environment. Lawyers and law firms will look for candidates with experience managing leader schedules, setting up appointments, and operating typical office equipment like fax machines, computers, copiers and printers, and filing systems.

Conversely, to skip the years of experience as a general receptionist or administrative assistant, you can choose to pursue a bachelor’s degree. They type of bachelor’s degree you earn is flexible, but majors in English, political science, business, or communications are common. With a bachelor’s degree, you may be able to find work as a legal assistant or secretary even without prior experience in the field, though relevant internships working with law firms can increase your competitiveness for open roles.

Another possible approach is to pursue a college certificate or associate’s degree in paralegal studies. These programs typically last between one and two years and are focused on teaching students about basic operations and functions within law firms. With a certificate or degree in paralegal studies, you may be able to find work without a bachelor’s degree and without previous experience, and you may also be able to move up into a paralegal role after gaining some experience as a legal assistant.


Legal Assistant or Secretary Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

Low Range

$37,880

Average

$52,390

High Range

$79,010

National Hourly Wage

Low Range

$18/hr

Average

$25/hr

High Range

$38/hr

How do Legal Assistant or Secretary salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Legal Assistant or Secretary's can make an average annual salary of $52,390, or $25 per hour. This makes it an Above Average Salary. On the lower end, they can make $37,880 or $18 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #362 Nationally for All Careers


Programs and Degrees

Here are the most common degrees for becoming a Legal Assistant or Secretary. a is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.


Highest Education Among Legal Assistant or Secretarys

  • 2.7%   Doctorate
  • 4.9%   Masters
  • 37.5%   Bachelors
  • 18.5%   Associates
  • 24.1%   College
  • 11.2%   High School
  • 1%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs

279,500

2024 Est. Jobs

300,800

Job Growth Rate

7.6%

Est. New Jobs

21,300

How does Legal Assistant or Secretary job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 21,300 jobs for a total of 300,800 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 7.6% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Below Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #294 Nationally for All Careers


What Companies Employ The Most Legal Assistant or Secretarys

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Legal services 202,100 16,000 16%
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 16,900 1,000 1%
Federal government, excluding postal service 14,000 -1,300 -1%

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