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The evolution of legal secretaries

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Prior to working at a law firm, when I heard the word “secretary”, my first instinct was to think of an old lady in a long grey dress peering through oversized glasses into a typewriter. When I heard the word “legal”, I instantly imagined a character straight out of Suits, yelling across a court room completely decked out in pinstripes.

old working woman

So when you combine the words to make “legal secretary”, what exactly does that mean? Any legal secretary would be quick to assure you that they don’t fit that image of a daggy lady at a typewriter (some are even men). They would also assure you that they don’t throw insults across a court room all day.

After working at a law firm, I feel confident in saying that a legal secretary or anyone in a legal support role, is best described as a unbeatable ninja who co-ordinates at least 3 grown up babies on a daily basis, types with fingers as fast as Usain Bolt, manages to inhale lunch while proof reading a document as boring as weetbix and spends the last day of every month frantic over dreaded billing, all with a smile on their face (mostly).

Picture this, a really grumpy old partner (who debatably should have retired 10 years ago) working alongside a junior secretary. Who do you think would wear the pants in that relationship? I would put my money on the secretary. They are that partner’s “go to” person, they are relied upon tremendously to organise their life, put up with drama as well as a lack of formatting skills.

Over time, the role of a legal secretary has changed. Gone are the days of a secretary’s role being limited to answering the phone and typing. Legal secretaries have a broad range of duties (which sometimes seem never ending). It’s quite common now for legal secretaries to have a far more hands on approach – they are literally a fee earners right hand. While a fee earner obviously checks and signs off on work, a lot of grunt work is done by a secretary or paralegal.

So my point is, legal secretaries are a driving force behind any great fee earner, they are amazing.  So if there are any fee earners reading this, please buy your secretary some chocolate – they deserve it.

Secretaries, we would love to hear from you about how you think the typical role of a secretary has changed over time.

Written by Kate Wain



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Guest Thursday, 22 August 2019

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