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Litigation Secretary


Description

Not many people leap to the words "litigation secretary" when asked if they would like a career in the field of law. While lawyers and judges initially enter most people's minds, the fact is, their secretaries have jobs that can be just as challenging. Highly trained, these secretaries do more than just answer the phone.

These office workers can be found in private legal firms, large companies' legal departments, legal aid offices, real estate companies, courts, and government agencies. They are in charge of all the typing, filing, documentation (including working with briefs, motion records, and pleadings) and correspondence with clients. They field phone calls, set up appointments, and complete mail-outs on behalf of the firm or courthouse office. They are aware of all the goings-on in a legal office, and must keep in contact with other secretaries, court administrators, and paralegals. And because of the amount of client information they process each day, they must be discreet.

Litigation or legal secretaries must be organized, with great time management skills. Because they need to communicate with many different types of people, from clients to other professionals, they must be articulate, and have a good understanding of various aspects of the law and its practice, gained over the years of training and experience.
 
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  Interests and Skills  
Successful litigation secretaries are highly organized, efficient and able to balance a number of tasks at once. They are good communicators with excellent typing skills. Litigation secretaries must be able to work effectively on their own, but also alongside other secretaries and assistants when need be. Computer skills are a necessity.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Prepare legal documents likes deeds, wills, mortgages, contracts, affidavits, motions and briefs
  • Schedule appointments and meetings
  • Classify, code and file all documentation
  • Open correspondence (including faxes and email)
  • Respond to routine inquiries
  • Review and proofread outgoing documents to ensure that they are correct and comply with legal procedures
  • Access and use online legal resources
  • Handle routine accounting procedures
  • May attend court, meetings or conferences to take notes, minutes and dictation.
  • The typical day for a litigation secretary will include a lot of filing, typing, and transcribing, but also interaction with clients, lawyers, and other administrative assistants. The job requires a lot of time at the computer, often copying handwritten documentation, so patience is an asset - sometimes handwriting can be difficult to decipher. The job, due to its position in the legal world, allows the worker to learn quite a lot about the legal system, how it works, and the roles of the different people working within the realm of the law.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Working in a variety of office environments, such as legal firms, government agencies, courts, real estate companies and legal aid departments, legal secretaries will encounter many different kinds of clients, and many different kinds of judicial workers. The offices are often fast-paced, and, though they usually work standard hours, may be required to stay late or work weekends if a deadline is coming up. Litigation secretaries will most likely work alone, or supervise other staff, or they may work in a team of secretaries, depending on the firm or company's size and location.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Litigation secretaries may begin their careers as secretaries at large firms or government agencies, where a number of secretaries are supervised by a senior administrator. However, there are many opportunities for advancement. A legal secretary can find work in smaller firms, perhaps working as the only secretary. A legal secretary could go onto to the number of government agencies and courts, or else work as a legal secretary in a law department of a company. With enough experience, a legal secretary could always move up to supervisory roles. With additional education and training a litigation secretary could be working as a paralegal or as a court officer. Finally, litigation secretaries may choose to go on to law school.
 

  Educational Paths  
The educational path to becoming a litigation secretary typically involves completion of secondary school and completion of a college program for litigation or legal secretaries. While certification is not necessary, some training in this complex world of law is most definitely an asset, as well as having excellent typing skills. Programs cover typing, legal terminology, document preparation, and filing techniques. All programs have a pre-requisite of a high school diploma or equivalent, as well as a minimum typing speed, from anywhere from 30 wpm to 50 wpm. Some programs require students to have previous secretarial experience, or to have completed previous office administrative courses.
 

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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