Getting into and Getting Ahead in Legal

What does it take to become a Legal secretary and once in the field, how can you ensure you get to the top? We asked Victoria Roberts, Senior Consultant at Joslin Rowe to give us the low down on working in the legal world.

By Jane Schulte

Working as a secretary in the legal world can be incredibly rewarding - both financially and career wise. Once you've gained the requisite experience, remuneration packages increase rapidly whilst career progression is strong both internally and within the wider market. Indeed, competition for the very best legal secretaries is fierce.

So what do you need to know if you want to become a legal secretary and, if you're already working within this field, how can you ensure you get to the very top?

The first thing to note is that it can be easier to progress within the legal secretarial field if you start as a trainee. Like most industries, employers generally prefer to hire candidates with a stable track record of experience in exactly the same field. According to Joslin Rowe senior consultant, Victoria Roberts, trying to move across from a different sector can be a little more tricky:

"Whilst it's absolutely possible to help secretarial candidates from one industry to another - it isn't always easy, " she advises. "Most legal firms like to hire secretaries from a legal background. Having said that, I do have one or two major clients who prefer to hire from the non-legal background and they offer fantastic training. Those secretaries that tend to succeed generally come from a similar partnership background, for example a chartered surveyors or accountancy practice, as employers know they're used to the decision making processes and day to day work. Exceptional audio and copy skills will often swing the balance between a legal and non-legal background."

Roberts also advises that if a big City law firm is your goal, it's worth trying to get in there right at the very beginning.

"I see quite a few candidates who are working for small legal firms who want to move into the City. Unfortunately, there can be quite a skills gap between what is required at a larger law firm and the work that is done at a smaller organisation. Typically word skills will not be as advanced. Whilst I don't want to give the impression that City law firms are inflexible in the skills and experience of the candidates they will consider it's often the case that job seekers from local firms will find it easier to step up to a smaller city firm before progressing to one of the big names."

According to Roberts, a legal secretarial diploma isn't totally necessary and whilst there aren't lots of trainee positions, it tends to be the candidates with a minimum of 60wpm and strong audio skills who are snapped up.

Progression can come in a variety of ways within the legal world. Most commonly secretaries work for ever more senior employees - progressing from fee earners to partner, senior partner to managing partner. There is also the option to run secretarial teams as the co-ordinator for various groups. And with added responsibility comes added financial rewards. Currently the average salary is around £33,000 - but candidates at the top of their game can earn upwards of £45,000 plus bonus and excellent benefits.

To progress candidates generally need to demonstrate advanced word, audio and typing skills and diary management control. Digital dictation can also be useful but languages rarely make a difference. It goes without saying that professional presentation and the ability to speak to clients will also mark candidates out as high fliers.

For more information

Share this page with your friends


Share this page with your friends.