How to Become a Legal Secretary
Legal Secretary Careers & Degrees

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.

The below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.
  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary

$50,900
$28K
$35K
$50K
$63K
$79K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$43,710
Alaska$50,060
Arizona$51,880
Arkansas$36,780
California$57,370
Colorado$54,220
Connecticut$56,660
Delaware$50,760
District of Columbia$86,820
Florida$46,780
Georgia$46,650
Hawaii$52,410
Idaho$37,460
Illinois$52,710
Indiana$41,960
Iowa$40,000
Kansas$39,720
Kentucky$36,950
Louisiana$42,290
Maine$39,130
Maryland$54,470
Massachusetts$63,360
Michigan$47,410
Minnesota$54,710
Mississippi$40,380
Missouri$46,690
Montana$32,210
Nebraska$40,390
Nevada$46,260
New Hampshire$48,410
New Jersey$52,590
New Mexico$39,400
New York$56,000
North Carolina$46,450
North Dakota$44,340
Ohio$45,880
Oklahoma$37,240
Oregon$51,570
Pennsylvania$53,590
Rhode Island$50,600
South Carolina$41,580
South Dakota$34,970
Tennessee$43,150
Texas$46,530
Utah$44,000
Vermont$51,870
Virginia$47,630
Washington$54,310
West Virginia$40,060
Wisconsin$47,010
Wyoming$39,570
Guam$34,980
Puerto Rico$25,830

The top earning state in the field is District of Columbia, where the average salary is $86,820.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

District of Columbia - $86,820
Massachusetts - $63,360
California - $57,370
Connecticut - $56,660
New York - $56,000
* Salary information based on the May 2019 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

QuestionWhat 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.

QuestionHow 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.

QuestionHow 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.

QuestionWhat 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.

QuestionHow 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.

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