Detailed Guide forLegal 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|
|Task||Skill 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|
Below is a definition for each skill.
|View the tasks to skills list|
|Writing||Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.|
|Judgment and Decision Making||Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.|
|Oral Comprehension||The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.|
|Time Management||Managing one's own time and the time of others.|
|Clerical||Knowledge of administrative and clerical procedures and systems such as word processing, managing files and records, stenography and transcription, designing forms, and other office procedures and terminology.|
|Law and Government||Knowledge of laws, legal codes, court procedures, precedents, government regulations, executive orders, agency rules, and the democratic political process.|
|Reading Comprehension||Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.|
|Information Ordering||The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).|
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?
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.
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
|Paid Time Off Bank||19%||2%|
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-Time||Part-Time|
|Half or more||32%||31%|
|Less than Half||6%||13%|
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|
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Due to Net
|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|
|Jobs From Growth||Jobs Due to|
|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.
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.
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.
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 Title||Percent of Total Employment for Occupation in California|
|Legal Services ||87.2%|
|Local Government ||4.9%|
|State Government ||2.0%|
|Insurance Carriers ||1.2%|
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%|
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.
|Expect Employment to Increase ||7%|
|Expect Employment to Remain Stable ||89%|
|Expect Employment to Decline ||4%|
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
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.
Below is a list of occupations related to Legal Secretaries with links to more information.
|Court, Municipal, and License Clerks||Profile|
|Executive Secretaries and Executive Administrative Assistants||Guide|
|Judicial Law Clerks||Profile|
|Office Clerks, General||Guide|
|Paralegals and Legal Assistants*||Guide|
|Secretaries and Administrative Assistants, Except Legal, Medical, and Executive||Guide|
|Title Examiners, Abstractors, and Searchers||Profile|
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.