Starting to investigate a new job option will often be a laborious task,
fraught with bad and inconsistent advice...
Because of the current financial climate, many ordinary people are seeking to protect their futures through training into an alternative career.
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To become a Legal Secretary you will need to acquire a number of key skills, although there isn't one specific certification to get you there. We'll discuss here what the job involves, and cover possible training paths into the industry.
Most days, the bulk of a legal secretary's work will be typing up official papers such as contracts or wills, and letters from lawyers to their clients. In addition, those who work for small companies may well cover general administrative tasks as well. Finally, there are tasks that will require some legal understanding, for example when taking calls from clients.
Lawyers most often have their own specialities, such as criminal law for example. Which means there's a great variety of work - and then some offices are concerned with family law, and others might be concerned with company law.
If you're the only legal secretary working in a small office, the diversity of your work is likely to be greater than if you work with many others in a big office.
Most of the work will be done on a PC in a single office environment. You can expect regular working hours - usually nine to five on a Monday to Friday, although some big companies offer flexi-time. A well-trained legal secretary entering the industry might expect to start on around fifteen thousand a year, with increments to over twenty five thousand with experience.
OK - so which skills and competencies does an employer seek the most? Outstanding keyboard & computer skills would be high on the list of requirements, alongside a good command of the English language. Moreover employers place a high emphasis on loyalty and trust, so client confidentiality must be honoured at all times.
Employers may stipulate certain academic qualifications, though usually this is just to demonstrate an aptitude level. Naturally, spelling and grammar are key skills for the job, and no professional should rely on spell-check.
Many companies now utilise Microsoft Office Products, and therefore a good practical understanding of Microsoft Word along with PowerPoint and Excel are definitely welcomed. Study for an ECDL for basic computer user skills, or MOS or MCAS for more advanced Microsoft Office professional skills.
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Some of the training colleges offer very helpful advice for people looking to get started in secretarial work. As the work is so interesting it's a popular choice for many candidates coming from other secretarial fields. Be sure to be positive, attentive and responsive - employers like to get a feel for how someone would fit into their working environment. (Watch your CV - in a job that places priority on accuracy of documentation, you don't want to drop a clanger here!)
Because of the precise nature of some legal companies, it's not uncommon for legal secretaries to receive on the job training in certain areas. Sometimes that involves training in the workplace itself, and other times it means continuing to do more advanced external training.
A variety of disciplines will be dealt with on a bespoke training course for Legal Secretaries. Elementary courses will introduce you to legal paperwork and deal with legal working practices. Other modules might deal with the legal system itself, or how a court is structured.
However the bulk of your studies will probably focus on the subject matter relevant to your law firm's expertise, which might be Land Law, Family Law, Criminal Law or one or more of many other legal areas.
Prices for training vary - as will the standard of training - but you should expect to pay between five hundred and one thousand pounds. On top of that you should budget for Microsoft Office skills training if you need that as well. Most training courses are predominantly home-based and can be done on a PC or laptop.
It's not uncommon for experienced Legal Secretaries to further their career by taking a Legal Executive certification. These are exciting times for Legal Executives.
In many ways they act on behalf of clients in the same manner as a lawyer would, but they cannot represent them in High Court.
Nevertheless, many Legal Executives now work in the lower courts on certain applications and arbitrations. Which courts they can work in largely depends on the area and level of their expertise. Legal Executives can specialise in the same range of activities that other lawyers can.
To sum up, training and gaining certifications for work as a legal secretary will give you the confidence to pursue a highly valued career path. Take the steps now to discover the right training choices for you.