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Legal Secretary or Paralegal?

Article by Wendy Souter

The Legal Secretary's role can be quite demanding and requires specific skills when dealing with legal documentation, searches, registrations, applications and so on. They must possess sufficient knowledge of the legal world in order to carry out these tasks without incurring breaches, loss of confidentiality, conflict of interest. All legal personnel must respect and protect their client’s cases so learning not to divulge or discuss cases outside of the office is paramount. Otherwise, the firm can be sued and the secretary will be out of a job. 


Apart from the nature of the work, legal secretaries must possess all the skills of general secretaries with accurate and fast typing speeds, proficiency in IT and word processing, being able to remain calm in often hectic atmospheres and be prepared to give assistance with other aspects of administration.  


Bearing all these in mind, it is not difficult to see that being accepted to work as a Legal Secretary requires further knowledge than general secretaries.  


Completing one of our Legal Secretary Courses will prepare you to work within either the Conveyancing or Litigation department with additional skills in Legal Audio Transcription and Legal Document Production. These give practical experience in dealing with legal documents, their terminology and layouts. We offer 3 aspects of Litigation - Criminal, Civil and Divorces. Generally, law firms are departmentalised and knowledge of one area of law is acceptable. However, in order to be prepared for the jobs market, having knowledge of more than one area is recommended so as not to restrict job applications.  In short Legal Secretaries offer crucial administrative assistance to both lawyers and paralegals.


If you are an existing Legal Secretary, you can upgrade your skills with us to qualify as a Paralegal.


Paralegals are sometimes called Legal Assistants or Law Clerks and they are employed to deal with casework which frees up lawyers to perform more complicated tasks such as defence, advising on Estates and other financial matters, negotiating settlements. 


The work which Paralegals do makes up part of a client’s Invoice for Professional Services and as such their time spent, like lawyers, are documented and billed. Their hourly rate is less than that of lawyers and as such, much of the less complicated tasks are carried out by them. Paralegals remain an integral part of the workforce for legal services.  They are fee earners and case workers, provided they have the correct level of training.  


In these days of high digital technology, many lawyers and paralegals are able to do their own typing but will generally rely on the services of legal secretaries.  


If you are deciding whether to choose a career as a Legal Secretary or as a Paralegal, this should give you an insight into the roles performed by both professionals.