California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Legal Secretaries in California

May also be called: Law Secretaries; Legal Administrative Assistants; Paralegal Secretaries; and Secretaries.

What Would I Do?

Legal Secretaries perform clerical duties to ensure efficient operation of the law office. They manage and communicate information, plan and schedule meetings, maintain calendars, and may take dictation or transcription. Consequently, a good understanding of grammar, punctuation, and spelling is important. Their duties vary depending upon the size of the office staff and division of duties. Legal Secretaries may assist with legal research, participate in billing clients, and take notes at legal meetings such as client interviews, hearings, or depositions. The Legal Secretaries' work involves knowledge and use of legal words and phrases to prepare legal papers and correspondence.

Legal Secretaries use and troubleshoot a variety of office equipment, such as fax machines, photocopiers, scanners, video conferencing and telephone systems, computers, and possibly dictation equipment. They also operate word processing, legal, spreadsheet, information search, and document management software.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Draft and type office memos.Writing
Mail, fax, or arrange for delivery of legal correspondence to clients, witnesses, and court officials.Judgment and Decision Making
Receive and place telephone calls.Oral Comprehension
Schedule and make appointments.Time Management
Make photocopies of correspondence, documents, and other printed matter.Clerical
Prepare and process legal documents and papers, such as summonses, subpoenas, complaints, appeals, motions, and pretrial agreements.Law and Government
Review legal publications and perform database searches to identify laws and court decisions relevant to pending cases.Reading Comprehension
Organize and maintain law libraries, documents, and case files.Information Ordering
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Legal Secretaries work in a variety of businesses from private law firms to insurance companies. They usually work eight hours a day, five days a week. Some Legal Secretaries with a heavy workload may work overtime. They may sit for long periods of time keyboarding, running computer applications, or researching. Legal Secretaries must take frequent breaks to avoid eyestrain, stress, and repetitive motion injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome.

So far there has been little or no unionization of Legal Secretaries.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Legal Secretary will appeal to those who enjoy working in a supportive role that deals with legal procedures. This type of work appeals to those with conventional interests, who enjoy working with set procedures and routines, and who like working with data and details. In addition, Legal Secretaries should be discreet, dependable, careful about detail, and accurate.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

Wages

The median wage in 2015 for Legal Secretaries in California was $51,664 annually, or $24.84 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2015Low
(25th percentile)
Median
(50th percentile)
High
(75th percentile)
California$39,283$51,664$68,419
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2015 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas

Benefits

Most employers provide health, dental, and life insurance; paid holidays; sick leave; and retirement and vacation benefits. Annual bonuses are frequently paid to Legal Secretaries working for private law firms.

What Do Local Employers Say About Benefits?  Of the 550 employers in California, almost all provide medical insurance and vacation, and most provide sick leave and retirement plan benefits to Legal Secretaries who work full-time.

Percent of Employers Who Provide
Specific Benefits by Time Base
Benefit TypeFull-TimePart-Time
Medical Insurance82%7%
Vacation82%11%
Sick Leave78%8%
Retirement Plan61%8%
Dental Insurance52%4%
Life Insurance46%4%
Vision Insurance34%2%
Disability Insurance33%3%
Paid Time Off Bank19%2%
No benefits3%17%
Source: EDD/LMID Local Occupational Information Survey.

Of the 453 employers surveyed who responded in California, who provides medical benefits, almost all reported that they pay half or more of the cost of medical insurance for full-time, and almost all reported that they pay half or more of the cost of medical insurance for part-time Legal Secretaries.

Percent of Employers Who Paid Medical
Insurance by Portion Paid by Time Base
Portion Paid by Employer:Full-TimePart-Time
All63%51%
Half or more32%31%
Less than Half6%13%
None0%5%
Source: EDD/LMID Local Occupational Information Survey.

What is the Job Outlook?

Technology is changing to role of the Legal Secretary. One change is that other staff can do more of their own clerical work freeing the Legal Secretary to perform duties previously handled by managers and professionals. Another is that Legal Secretaries can support more staff through their increased productivity. These changes caused by technology help offset the growth in demand for Legal Secretaries. Nevertheless, the need for Legal Secretaries will continue to grow as the demand for legal services rise and workers leave the occupation.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Legal Secretaries is expected to decline between 2012 and 2022.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Legal Secretaries
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Estimated
Employment
Projected
Employment
Numeric
Change
Percent
Change
Additional Openings
Due to Net
Replacements
California
(2012-2022)
30,90029,900-1,000-3.23,700
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

Annual Job Openings

In California, an average of 370 job openings due to net replacement needs is expected per year for Legal Secretaries.

Estimated Average Annual Job Openings
Legal Secretaries
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-
Projected Year)
Jobs From GrowthJobs Due to
Net Replacements
Total Annual
Job Openings
California
(2012-2022)
0370370
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Data for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

Many community colleges offer associate degrees or certificates for Legal Secretaries. Some training centers and Regional Occupation Programs around the state offer one-year certification programs for Legal Secretaries. Once on the job, employers may offer training on new office technologies and software as they become available.

Experience

The amount of experience required for Legal Secretaries varies with each employer and the level of position. Employers tend to accept postsecondary training as a substitute for some on-the-job experience. Legal Secretaries generally start out working under an experienced Legal Secretary or paralegal. As they gain experience and knowledge, Legal Secretaries work more independently.

Early Career Planning

Obtaining a high school diploma or the equivalent is necessary for entry-level secretarial positions. Courses in keyboarding, computers, and English provide the basic skills for all secretarial positions. Courses covering software applications such as word processing are becoming increasingly advisable. High school students can get summer or part-time jobs in legal offices. These jobs can provide experience in office procedures and equipment and exposure to legal terminology.

Work Study Programs

California offers Regional Occupational Programs (ROP) for Legal Secretaries. To find an ROP program near you, go to the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs Web site.

Continuing Education

There is no required continuing education for Legal Secretaries. However, if Legal Secretaries acquire voluntary certifications, they must complete the required continuing education to maintain their certifications. Training classes, workshops, and educational seminars are offered by professional organizations such as Legal Secretaries, Incorporated. Separately, workers looking to keep up with legislative changes, new technology, or legal education can read publications from associations for legal support staff. In addition, retraining and continuing education will remain essential for Legal Secretaries to learn how to operate new office technologies as office automation continues to evolve.

Certification

Many Legal Secretaries obtain certification for purposes of career advancement and higher salaries. In California, Legal Secretaries, Incorporated (LSI) offers a renewable three-year certification through the California Certified Legal Secretary (CCLS) program.

The National Association for Legal Secretaries offers two renewable five-year certifications. The first is a basic certification Accredited Legal Secretary (ALS) for those who have completed an accredited business/legal course or one year of general office experience. The other is an advanced certification Professional Legal Secretary (PLS) for those who have three years of experience in the legal field, or two years of experience plus a post-secondary degree or certification.

Legal Secretaries International, Inc. offers the Certified Legal Secretary Specialist (CLSS) in six specific areas of the law for those with five years of legal experience or less experience plus a degree.

A Legal Secretary can also become a Certified Professional Secretary (CPS) or Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) through the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP). A minimum of four years administrative experience is required but can be reduced in lieu of a degree.

For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

The largest industries employing Legal Secretaries are as follows: The largest industries employing Legal Secretaries are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Legal Services 87.2%
Local Government 4.9%
State Government 2.0%
Insurance Carriers 1.2%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

What Employers Say...

The Employment Development Department surveyed 550 employers in California which employ 3,192 Legal Secretaries. Here's what they had to say:

About Full-Time/Part-Time: Almost All of these firms employ full-time and some employ part-time Legal Secretaries.

About Work Experience:  Of the 550 employers surveyed in California, almost all require new hires to have prior work experience as Legal Secretaries. In the table below, percentages may not add to 100% since employers may select more than one time period.

How Much Work Experience
Do Employers Require?
More than 5 years 13%
25 to 60 months 29%
13 to 24 months 33%
1 to 12 months 26%
Source: EDD/LMID Local Occupational Information Survey.

About Recruitment:  Of the 550 employers surveyed in California, most indicate it is moderately difficult to find applicants with experience who meet their minimum hiring requirements, while many indicate it is hard to find applicants without previous experience who meet their minimum hiring requirements to fill vacancies for Legal Secretaries.

About Hiring:  Of the 550 employers surveyed in California, almost all expect the number of Legal Secretaries they employ to remain stable during the coming year.

Hiring Expectations
Expect Employment to Increase 7%
Expect Employment to Remain Stable 89%
Expect Employment to Decline 4%
Source: EDD/LMID Local Occupational Information Survey.

About Vacancies:  Of the 550 employers surveyed in California, 45 percent hired Legal Secretaries during the past year. Of the hiring firms, 93 percent filled existing vacancies, 17 percent filled newly created positions, and 8 percent filled temporary assignments.

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. Legal Secretaries can also register with their school placement center for job leads. Professional associations and personnel departments of government agencies advertise job opportunities on the Internet as well. Job leads can also be found in law journals. Those interested in working on a temporary basis may seek assignments through a temporary agency specializing in legal positions. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at www.jobcentral.com and CalJOBSSM at www.caljobs.ca.gov.

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Legal Secretaries.

  • Legal Services
  • Secretarial Services
  • Paralegals

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

Experienced Legal Secretaries can advance to supervisory or lead positions. With additional training, a Legal Secretary can become a paralegal or even go on to become an attorney.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Legal Secretaries with links to more information.

OccupationOccupational
Guide
Industry
Report
Occupational
Profile
Correspondence ClerksProfile
Court, Municipal, and License ClerksProfile
Executive Secretaries and Executive Administrative AssistantsGuide
Judicial Law ClerksProfile
Medical SecretariesGuide
Office Clerks, GeneralGuide
Paralegals and Legal Assistants*Guide
Secretaries and Administrative Assistants, Except Legal, Medical, and ExecutiveGuide
Title Examiners, Abstractors, and SearchersProfile

Other Sources

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SystemCode
SOC - Standard Occupational Classification43-6012
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Legal Secretaries43-6012.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)CES
CIP - Classification of Instructional Programs
   Legal Administrative Assistant/Secretary 220301
TOP - Taxonomy of Programs (California Community Colleges)
   Legal Office Technology051410