Steps to Being a Successful Legal Secretary

Steps to Being a Successful Legal Secretary

legal secretary vancouverWanted: Great Legal Secretary. Not a mediocre legal secretary. Not adequate….Great.

We’ve all the seen the job postings. Terms like “high-caliber”, “skilled” and “polished” appear throughout, but what does a law firm actually mean when using these types of phrases? What are recruiters really looking for?

In a nutshell, the starting point for anyone recruiting a legal secretary is to find someone who can type, is organised, is methodical, can concentrate, is accurate, will proofread, and has knowledge of legal terms and procedures. Having these skills means you should be shortlisted for an interview. Then, if you are able to demonstrate them during an interview, there is no reason that you should not be offered a position.

But what is going to make you stand out as a great secretary rather than just someone who is competent? Here are some suggestions:

Organise those around you

It is not unfair to say that many lawyers work in a state of ‘organised chaos’. It might even be more accurate to say that there are lawyers who work in absolute chaos. To really be noticed, it is not enough to be organised yourself. The best secretaries become indispensable by organising the people for whom they are working.
If you understand techniques for managing your own workload – e.g. using calendars, time sheets, planners, to-do lists and schedules to prioritise tasks – then help your boss to use these techniques as well. Many professionals are not good at managing their time, so if you can do this for them you will be worth your weight in gold.

Be ready and able to make changes

If you are happy to drift along in work and be told what to do, you are unlikely to stand out. On the other hand, if you have energy, enthusiasm and ideas of your own, you can make yourself an asset to your organisation. Take the point from above about organising those around you. Just having the thought that this would be a good idea is not enough. You need to convince others that your approach is best. The best secretaries are able to see when something could be done more efficiently and then convince others that their changes are a good idea. If you want to improve your ability to influence others and ‘sell’ your ideas, learn to ask and use questions effectively and listen to what you are being told.

Continue developing your skills as a professional

It goes without saying that to get ahead in a law firm you should be professional in appearance, but there are other ways to demonstrate to those you work for that you are a professional. One definition of a professional is someone who exhibits great skills – an expert. If you are a competent legal secretary, you will already be an expert typist and administrator. To be a great legal secretary, however, you should be willing to develop extra skills. The best firms will encourage you to do this, as they know it is in their own interests to have a highly skilled workforce. Consider obtaining additional IT or legal qualifications. If you are working in a particular area of law, consider seeking higher qualification relevant to that area. It is possible to develop your role from that of a secretary into a full-fledged fee-earner, provided you are willing to spend the time obtaining the professional qualifications.

These are just a few suggestions that could make you not only a great legal secretary, but also someone who is indispensable.

Photo credit Derek White

About Samantha Collier

Samantha Collier is a well-respected social media specialist in the Canadian legal realm. An experienced practitioner of online social networking, Samantha also has experience working in-house in business development for a national IP firm, but has worked in marketing and client acquisition for over 13 years.

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