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Legal Secretaries have to deal with a wide range of correspondence throughout the day. They not only interact with peers and colleagues on a daily basis, but also must effectively communicate with lawyers and other legal professionals regularly. This includes not only face-to-face communication but also phone calls, email, written correspondence, and in some cases teleconferencing or other live video. Because of this, solid interpersonal and communication skills are a necessity when working in the legal field.
Being able to talk to people in person is essential for Legal Secretaries. This applies not only to lawyers and other legal staff but to clients and the public at large, as well. This requires more than just a large vocabulary and familiarity with legal terms; to effectively do his or her job, a Legal Secretary should have an engaging personality, be able to discuss a wide range of topics, and come across as an intelligent contributor to the discussion, even if he or she is not an expert on the subject at hand. This not only helps the Secretary be a competent member of a firm’s legal team but also ensures that clients and others will not be treated poorly when visiting the office.
Regardless of whether it is written correspondence or email, being able to correspond eloquently is an important part of a Legal Secretary’s position. This requires more than just grammatical correctness, though that obviously plays an important part; strong correspondence must show competence and understanding of the topic at hand without being excessively wordy or casual. Any correspondence should assume a professional tone, coming across as friendly and personable while staying professional enough that it doesn’t reflect poorly on the firm that the Secretary works for.
Phone and Video Skills
Traditionally, good phone mannerisms have been an important part of a Legal Secretary’s interpersonal and communication skills. The Secretary would not only have to field calls from clients and other lawyers, but would also be required to make calls requesting needed information or to set up important appointments. Some people have problems making and receiving phone calls, due to the disconnect caused by the lack of visual clues, so being able to handle potentially nervous or uncomfortable parties on the phone is a very important skill. As technology has advanced, of course, new methods for long distance communication have been developed. This has resulted in Legal Secretaries having to expand their skill sets, becoming masters of instant messaging, teleconferencing, video calls, and other technologically driven forms of instant communication.
Interpersonal skills are constantly being developed, and there are always new things to learn about how to handle clients, colleagues, and other parties when working in a law office. Legal Secretaries often need to adjust their mannerisms when dealing with specific individuals, especially if the person in question is a client who either has been a victim of some hardship or stands accused of a crime. Some individuals require very gentle contact, while others prefer a more casual form of address or dislike overly formal correspondence.
Learning how to read different people and determine which approach will work best based on their distinct personalities is a very important skill and one that can take a lifetime to master. By working on this skill and adjusting their approach depending on whom they’re addressing, Legal Secretaries can hone a wide range of communication skills. This will not only help the Secretary do his or her job but will also make the firm that he or she works for more approachable and well regarded, as well.
This article was originally posted on the The Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs