How Long Does It Take to Become a Legal Secretary?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 12 October 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A legal secretary carries out a variety of administrative and clerical duties in a law firm. The term may sometimes be confused with a paralegal; however, the roles are quite different. Paralegals tend to have more technical skills related to the law whilst legal secretaries are more administrative. In this article, we discuss the answer to the question, “how long does it take to become a legal secretary?”, explore how to become one and answer some frequently asked questions about the career.

How long does it take to become a legal secretary?

The length of time it takes to become a legal secretary can often depend on your chosen pathway. It's not essential to undertake specific legal studies, however, it may be beneficial. You may be able to find a job simply by applying. Alternatively, you could spend a year or more studying and gaining experience, to make yourself more employable. Therefore, it may take anywhere between a few weeks to a few years to become a legal secretary.

How to become a legal secretary

While there are no specific qualifications required to become a legal secretary. There are certain steps you can take to potentially make yourself more employable. Let's look at those steps:

1. Research the role

As with any chosen job or career, it's important to first research the role. This can give you an understanding of the responsibilities expected of you and whether it suits your skill set. The work of a legal secretary is often confused with a paralegal.

It's important to research the role of a legal secretary before deciding whether it's a career path you might enjoy. This research could include looking at specific courses you can do to improve your chances of getting the job.

2. Skills and training

There are essentially two pathways to take when becoming a legal secretary. The first may be to gain practical experience in a similar role, which could include working as a receptionist. In a role such as this, you can gain practical skills that may help you in a legal secretary role. You may even begin as a receptionist or intern at a law firm and work your way up to legal secretary.

The second option is to undertake some formal education before applying for the role. You may like to complete a Certificate 3 in Business Administration or a Certificate 4 in Legal Services at your local TAFE. Courses such as these are usually available to those who have completed year 10 or higher. They can teach you skills that can prove valuable to a legal secretary role.

3. Make yourself employable

While there are no specific qualifications required to become a legal secretary, you may find certain attributes are viewed favourably by employers. You are likely to be more successful when applying for roles if you have some experience.

One of the best ways to gain experience is through an internship. Internships are often available when studying. If you decide to take on a course at TAFE, you should enquire about possible internships. An internship can be a great way to earn real-world skills and knowledge. You can also get a better understanding of the work involved and whether it's suited to you.

Related: What Is an Internship: Everything You Need To Know

4. Apply for the job

Once you have done your research and training, it's time to look for a job. You can search online or apply directly to your preferred law firm. It's a good idea to tailor each cover letter to the specific job you are applying for. You may also consider preparing some questions to ask at the job interview and write a follow-up email afterwards to show your enthusiasm for the role.

Related: 6 Universal Rules for Resume Writing

Duties and responsibilities of a legal secretary

Legal secretaries work in law firms or organisations supporting lawyers and paralegals in their daily tasks. They usually perform general secretarial tasks and other duties that are more specific to the field of law. Here are some of the common responsibilities of a legal secretary:

  • Preparing correspondence to various parties

  • Preparing documents for hearings and/or court

  • Documenting details of a court proceeding

  • Proofreading legal documents such as motions, subpoenas and pleadings

  • Maintaining the filing of legal documents

  • Creating spreadsheets to record data

  • Scheduling meetings, hearings and depositions

  • Drafting legal documents such as deposition notices

  • Assisting with legal research

  • Communicating with lawyers and other counsel

Legal secretary skills

As well as education, training and experience, certain skills may prove beneficial to legal secretaries. Below you can find a list of examples of these skills:

Communication

Both written and verbal communication are key skills to have as a legal secretary. Legal secretaries may be required to communicate with clients of the legal firm. This may include emails, letters, phone calls and in-person meetings. Legal secretaries also need to be able to communicate with their fellow staff members and other lawyers at the firm.

Related: The Main Components of the Communications Process

Interpersonal skills

Legal secretaries are often the first point of contact at a law firm. They need to possess excellent interpersonal skills to greet clients and answer their questions confidently. Generally, legal secretaries need to maintain a professional yet friendly manner at all times while performing their duties.

Related: Interpersonal Skills: Definitions and Examples

Organisation

Legal secretaries need excellent organisation skills to deal with all the paperwork and filing they are required to do. They often support multiple legal professionals in the office so need to be able to juggle the work effectively. Successful legal secretaries often keep a neat and categorised filing system.

Related: Top Organisational Skills for Your Resume and Workplace

Attention to detail

Attention to detail can be vital for legal secretaries. They handle different aspects of daily law practice that don't have room for error. Legal secretaries need to keep track of schedules and deadlines so nothing is missed.

Related: How To Improve Your Attention to Detail in 4 Steps

Salary for a legal secretary

The salary for legal secretaries can vary depending on where they work. Legal secretaries may work in both the public and private sectors. The average national salary for a legal secretary is $72,646. The highest recorded salary is in Melbourne at $79,976.

Working conditions

Legal secretaries usually work full-time hours. They may be required to work overtime during busy periods. This can sometimes include late night and weekend work to ensure that all documents and duties are ready.

Legal secretaries may work in private law firms, in government departments or for judges in courts. There are several options for legal secretaries, so make sure you select the best fit for your skill set and your preferred corporate culture.

Frequently asked questions

Below you can find a list of the most commonly asked questions about becoming a legal secretary:

Do I need a degree to become a legal secretary?

No, there are no specific qualifications required to become a legal secretary. There are certain studies you can undertake that may help you when applying for jobs. They may also teach you valuable skills and knowledge to help you in the job.

What is an example job description for a legal secretary?

Here is an example of a possible job description you may see when searching for legal secretary jobs:

O**ur law firm is looking for an experienced legal secretary to join our growing team. The legal secretary is responsible for supporting lawyers by performing a range of administrative tasks. These tasks include greeting visitors, answering phones, drafting legal correspondence and communicating with clients. If you are a professional with experience working in a law firm, we encourage you to apply for this position today.

Will being a legal secretary help me to become a lawyer?

To become a lawyer, you need a law degree. Working as a legal secretary gives you knowledge of the legal world. It may provide you with knowledge, insights and contacts that may prove advantageous in the future. You can build relationships with co-workers that could prove to be invaluable when searching for a job as a lawyer. It can be a good first step, especially if you are unsure if becoming a lawyer is right for you.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location. Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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