By Michael Aed
Every legal professional should be fully prepared for each legal proceeding they will undergo. As such, both lawyers and paralegals rely heavily on their legal secretaries. Legal secretaries do as other administrative assistants do, with the addition that the world of law has been a world full of red tape and semantics.
The main responsibilities of legal secretaries include organizing, classifying, and categorizing mountains of paperwork relevant to complicated cases, as well as navigating the often-complex billing and legal software. On top of that, legal secretaries must respect and abide by strict confidentiality requirements.
Although their primary work is not of a substantive legal nature, legal secretaries are trusted members of a law firm. Every deadline is their top priority, and every single detail in their paperwork must be spot on. Otherwise, an overlooked detail, either a minor or major one, can immediately jeopardize a client’s case or even merit legal action from opposing lawyers.
Learning and mastering the core skills of a legal secretary will set you apart as one of the in-demand legal professionals in the field of law. Here’s a list of seven essential core skills and traits that every legal secretary must have.
Having reliability as one of your crucial work traits ensures success. This doesn’t only mean showing up promptly. There may be occasions when you need to be tied to your desk, even after other offices have already closed for the day.
If you have a family to take care of, ensure that this will not be a stressful issue for you. Make adjustments for your personal life to coordinate with your career. You can keep phone numbers of emergency childcare or your favorite take-out restaurant. Set an impression that even though you have a family, which you shouldn’t overlook, your office knows that they can rely on you.
Each successful secretary is a self-starter. They possess initiative and drive. They stay ahead of what needs to be accomplished, regardless of any given time constraint. They often step outside their comfort zone to keep the practice running smoothly.
Anticipating the needs of clients and employers is a priority, as long as it is not against the law or universal moral values. Being open minded and learning new skills can also be a stepping stone to becoming a top-notch secretary.
In a law firm, efficiency translates to dollars. Being efficient is the result of being reliable and taking initiative, which can yield cost savings. Hence, most employers regard efficiency as a valuable and necessary work trait of an excellent legal secretary.
A legal secretary who can effectively perform jobs quickly and contribute to the bottom line of a case without overlooking mistakes is indispensable to an attorney. Without a doubt, your employers are sure to notice this.
Discretion is essential, as you will be handling confidential data and files of the client. Inadvertently or purposefully disclosing confidential information is one of the quickest ways to end your legal career.
Be a professional. Leave personal matters at home, and keep work matters at work. Avoid discussion of work issues when with family and friends.
Keep in mind that most of the time you’re meeting with clients who are at a bad point in their lives. If you are facing a rude, surly client, keep smiling. Who knows, perhaps, a client grappling with a serious case will loosen up because you are smiling and respectful. If clients need time alone, offer a cup of coffee, and give them the space they need.
A secretary with a pleasing personality, who can handle issues with tact and diplomacy, forging solutions, and smoothing over differences, is always an invaluable member of a legal team. No one likes to work with a demanding, grumpy, and negative employee. If you are friendly with your colleagues and courteous with clients, you’ll surely go far in the workplace.
In a nutshell, handling both work challenges and various personality types is a crucial work trait that any legal secretary must have. Additionally, clients entrust your office to deal with their personal issues that are critically and fundamentally significant to their lives; hence, it is a must to work with compassion. Work hand in hand with patience, dedication, and hard work. Handle everything with this mindset. Sooner or later, before you know it, you’ll be the head of the pack.
Attorney Michael Aed started his career as a public defender and a criminal lawyer, but after only nine months of successfully defending misdemeanor charges, like DUIs, for clients, he was promoted to felony assignments. Mr. Aed practices law in state and federal court. He was also included in the Top 100 Trial Lawyers list by The National Trial Lawyers.