For every successful lawyer, there is a legal secretary hard at work behind him. The legal secretary is no ordinary secretary. She or he has in depth knowledge of the law, harnessed through years of work in the industry and perhaps even a legal secretary qualification.
This person has spent so much time helping the lawyer with research material and filing that he or she can command more remuneration in accordance with her years of experience. Usually, each lawyer will be assigned one legal secretary.
The work that a legal secretary does ranges from the common secretarial duties to that which are law specific. Most legal matters do not end up in court. They are handled and completed through much correspondence with both parties and it is the legal secretary who prepares and mails the letters that the lawyer drafts to the relevant party.
The legal secretary also communicates with any parties involved in a case and this could be other secretaries in other firms, government officials, immigration officials, court staff and interpreters. They make sure messages get across and all the administrative nature of the work is done so the lawyer will be free to focus on preparing for a case.
The administrative work is slightly different from that of other secretaries. The legal secretary books flights and arranges accommodation for the lawyer who may need to travel to another state to attend a court hearing. She also answers and screens phone calls to minimise distractions for the lawyer.
The legal secretary also prepares the invoice that will be billed to the client based on the number of hours the lawyer records. Lawyers charge per hour, so the legal secretary ensures bills are prepared in a timely fashion.
Like all secretaries, legal secretaries remind lawyers of appointments and deadlines – for the lawyer these will also include matters related to court hearings and judgments. It is absolutely vital that the lawyer does not miss any court appointments or deadlines, so this is a very important aspect of the legal secretary’s job.
The most important work, however, is the filing that the legal secretary does before and after a case. All kinds of documents have to be filed with the court and at different points in time. The legal secretary will assist the lawyer by making sure the documents are ready and formatted correctly for the court, and will arrange for them to be filed with the court. The secretary will also liaise with the court in case any more documents are needed or if the lawyer needs to obtain documents from the court. Knowledge of court procedure is very useful here.
All cases, whether on-going or closed, are also filed away systematically in a law firm so that lawyers can look them up easily. If the filing system is not convenient, the lawyer may waste precious time looking for files and documents. If files are missing, lawyers may miss important documents and hold up the court. A bit of knowledge about the law will help in the legal secretary’s job of filing.
The legal secretary may also help the lawyer with research, which is a big part of preparing for a case. A background in law will certainly help here, as the secretary will know exactly where to look, and will be able to make sense of the legal jargon and determine what is relevant to the case.
A legal secretary is aware of legal proceedings, procedures and facts about the law. He or she could persue a law degree to become a lawyer or continue to work behind the scenes.
DID YOU KNOW?
In many courtrooms, you may see a statue or picture of a blindfolded woman carrying a sword and a set of scales. This represents the concept of justice. In many ancient civilisations, the concept of justice was represented through a goddess – the Egyptians had Ma’at, the Greeks had Themis, and the Romans had Justitia.
The modern Lady Justice carries scales to weigh the guilt and innocence of those who appear before her. Her sword is a symbol of authority, and she is blindfolded because justice should be rendered ‘without passion or prejudice’, i.e. justice is blind to emotional or any other impressions.