How to Become a Legal Secretary

Legal Secretary
Legal Secretary Key Stats
Avg. Salary / year$52,540
Avg. Pay / hour$25.26
Education1-2 Years
Outlook-19.1%

A legal secretary prepares legal documents, sets appointments, and keeps accurate records of legal proceedings.

Many legal secretaries work as assistants for lawyers and judges, there is usually a combination of appointment setting and secretarial duties, as well as more involved duties such as research and preparing legal documents.

Legal secretaries often spend a lot of time working one on one with clients, and will often do the leg work on cases for the lawyer they are working for.

Some will even do involved work such as preparing defenses for clients or researching precedents, depending on their role and level of experience.

If you are interested in law, are strong in the humanities, and have excellent organizational skills, then a career as a legal secretary could be the right choice for you.

The National Association of Legal Assistants is a good source of information about working as a legal secretary.

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Education Requirements to Become a Legal Secretary

To become a legal secretary, you can complete a two year associates degree program that focuses on the skills you will need.

This includes a wide range of topics, from learning the law, to providing customer service and appointment setting, to preparing legal documents.

Having good computer skills is essential to become a legal secretary, so you will need to have a thorough understanding of work processing programs, as well as good computer literacy.

Strong communication skills are also needed, both written and verbal.

Legal Secretary Job Description

Some legal secretaries may work only to offer secretarial support, such as answering inquiries and setting appointments.

Others have a far more complex role that could involve preparing legal documents, setting court dates, and researching cases.

The role you take as a legal secretary will depend on your experience, interests, and skills.

While a lawyer will ultimately take both the responsibility and the credit for the work they do, they delegate many tasks to legal assistants and secretaries.

If you enjoy law and have an aptitude for research, this could be a role you enjoy very much.

There is lots of paperwork, research, and computer work involved, however this can be very rewarding when you find a break on a case or are able to achieve an excellent outcome for a client.

Some of the duties of a legal secretary could include:

  • Answering phone calls
  • Appointment setting and diary management
  • Preparing legal documents
  • Setting court dates
  • Keeping filing systems for documents
  • Communicating with lawyers and judges
  • Researching cases
  • Preparing a defense

Legal Secretary Salary and Career Path

Most legal secretaries begin their career by taking a position as a receptionist in a court house, or within a law firm.

As they gain experience, they will be promoted into more advanced roles with greater responsibilities.

A legal secretary could work within a law firm, a court house, or in a state or federal law enforcement agency.

There are good job prospects available in both the public and private sectors.

There is currently a good amount of growth in this area, however many students of business and accounting are seeking employment within the legal field, so competition may increase in the coming years.

The best opportunities will go to those with a relevant associate’s degree.

Many legal secretaries receive good benefits, including health insurance, dental, and optical.

They also receive paid vacation and sick leave.

Some that complete legal work may also be on a bonus system, allowing them to earn a higher salary based on results.

Some legal secretaries will move on the administrative positions, supervising other staff and ensuring the smooth running of an office or law firm.

Others will become paralegals with further study, or even lawyers themselves.

Starting out as a legal secretary, you could expect to earn between $35,000 and $40,000 a year.

With some experience, you could earn closer to the median salary of $45,000 a year.

The top 10% of legal secretaries earn more than $70,000 a year.

If you have a good attention to detail, enjoy a busy environment, and have an affinity with the law, then you will likely gain job satisfaction when you become a legal secretary.

Both employment prospects and offered salary are good for those seeking this type of work.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2021 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary

$52,540
$29K
$37K
$52K
$61K
$77K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$40,340
Alaska$49,050
Arizona$45,930
Arkansas$36,900
California$63,160
Colorado$61,680
Connecticut$55,520
Delaware$50,750
District of Columbia$83,610
Florida$45,890
Georgia$54,650
Hawaii$58,100
Idaho$41,190
Illinois$55,190
Indiana$45,790
Iowa$43,040
Kansas$40,890
Kentucky$39,700
Louisiana$46,760
Maine$43,500
Maryland$55,410
Massachusetts$61,190
Michigan$49,100
Minnesota$59,280
Mississippi$34,450
Missouri$46,890
Montana$35,760
Nebraska$43,990
Nevada$49,010
New Hampshire$46,660
New Jersey$54,380
New Mexico$42,990
New York$63,800
North Carolina$41,020
North Dakota$44,450
Ohio$44,450
Oklahoma$40,160
Oregon$53,180
Pennsylvania$51,680
Rhode Island$56,800
South Carolina$42,120
South Dakota$38,670
Tennessee$41,590
Texas$47,740
Utah$51,260
Vermont$46,610
Virginia$47,270
Washington$54,510
West Virginia$41,030
Wisconsin$49,630
Wyoming$42,740
Guam$36,390
Puerto Rico$26,580
Virgin Islands$39,470

The top earning state in the field is District of Columbia, where the average salary is $83,610.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

District of Columbia - $83,610
New York - $63,800
California - $63,160
Colorado - $61,680
Massachusetts - $61,190
* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Legal Secretaries and Administrative Assistants, OCC Code 43-6012, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a legal secretary do?

A legal secretary is someone who supports the paralegals and lawyers in a law office or other organization.

The specialists play an important role in the everyday workings of the law office.

The typical responsibilities of a legal secretary usually include taking messages and answering phone calls; preparing law documentation; creating detailed presentations and spreadsheets; interacting with all kinds of people (clients, commercial vendors, clerical personnel, attorneys, etc.); proofreading legal documents; preparing first drafts of correspondence, and so on.

A legal secretary would also have to deal with project management; that means keeping paper and electronic files in order, setting up appointments, keeping track of deadlines, maintaining a detailed calendar, etc.

The majority of legal secretaries work in law offices; some specialists might be found in public interest firms, corporate legal departments of companies, and government agencies.

How much do legal secretaries make?

On average, a legal secretary can make a little less than $39.000 per year in the United States.

In case you decide to choose this career path, you can expect to earn anywhere between $23.000 and $64.500 annually.

The salary would certainly depend on a variety of factors – your education and experience level, the employer, the location and so on.

Legal secretaries that work in the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, for example, have the highest average salaries.

An entry-level legal secretary can earn around $11.00 per hour, while a top-level professional with plenty of experience can make $31.00 and more per hour.

How much does it cost to become a legal secretary?

To become a legal secretary, you would need to, in most cases, obtain professional certification.

Legal secretarial programs can be found in community colleges, private career schools, and technical institutes.

There are plenty of programs available both online and offline; the tuition cost can range from $600 to $12.000.

What is the demand for legal secretaries?

Between 2016 and 2026, the court reporter job market is expected to shrink by 19.1%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That certainly is slower than the average for all occupations in the United States.

Some of the responsibilities of a legal secretary can be performed with the use of modern technology, that’s why the job market for this particular career is going to continue to shrink.

The industry is mainly concentrated in New York, California, and Texas.

How long does it take to become a legal secretary?

It will, in most cases, take you around 1-2 years to obtain professional certification.

The certification program usually ends with a three-part exam which leads to the National Association of Legal Professionals upon passing.

Most employers would require the candidate to have some sort of on-the-job training.

Jamie Willis