Is becoming a legal secretary right for me?

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What do legal secretaries do?
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Becoming a legal secretary typically involves a combination of education, training, and relevant skills. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to pursue a career as a legal secretary:

  • Obtain a High School Diploma or GED: Ensure you have a high school diploma or its equivalent, such as a General Educational Development (GED) certificate. A strong foundation in English, writing, communication, and computer skills is important for this role.
  • Acquire Relevant Skills: Develop skills that are essential for a legal secretary's role, including excellent written and verbal communication, attention to detail, organizational skills, time management, and proficiency in using office software like Microsoft Word and Excel.
  • Consider Formal Education: While not always required, completing a post-secondary education program can enhance your qualifications. You can choose to pursue a certificate or an associate degree in legal administration. These programs often cover legal terminology, document preparation, research skills, and office technology.
  • Gain Experience: Obtaining relevant work experience is crucial. You might start by working in administrative roles within legal settings or other professional environments to gain an understanding of office operations. This experience will help you become familiar with legal processes and terminology.
  • Consider Certification: Although certification is not mandatory, it can enhance your credibility and job prospects (see below).
  • Tailor Your Resume and Apply for Jobs: Craft a well-structured resume that highlights your relevant skills, education, and experience. Look for legal secretary job openings in law firms, corporate legal departments, government agencies, and other organizations. Tailor your application to showcase how your skills align with the specific job requirements.
  • Prepare for Interviews: If you're selected for an interview, research the organization and practice answering common interview questions. Emphasize your attention to detail, ability to manage legal documents, and communication skills.
  • Continuously Learn and Grow: Legal processes and technology are constantly evolving. Stay updated on industry trends, legal software, and best practices to remain a valuable asset to your employer.
  • Advance Your Career: With experience, you can explore opportunities for career advancement within the legal field. You might take on roles with more responsibilities, specialize in a particular area of law, or consider pursuing further education to become a paralegal.

Legal secretaries have the option to pursue professional certification to enhance their skills, knowledge, and credibility in the field. One prominent organization that offers certification for legal secretaries is the National Association of Legal Secretaries (NALS). They provide the Certified Legal Professional (CLP) and Professional Legal Secretary (PLS) certifications. Here's more information about these certifications:

Certified Legal Professional (CLP)
The CLP certification is designed for individuals who work in a legal environment and have a broad understanding of legal procedures, ethics, and office practices. To be eligible for the CLP certification, candidates must have either:

  • A high school diploma or equivalent, and three years of experience in a legal setting; or
  • An associate degree in any field and two years of experience in a legal setting.

The CLP exam covers topics such as legal terminology, ethics, legal research, document preparation, and office technology. Successful completion of the CLP exam demonstrates a comprehensive understanding of legal office procedures and concepts.

Professional Legal Secretary (PLS)
The PLS certification is a step up from the CLP certification and is designed for individuals with more advanced skills and experience in the legal field. To be eligible for the PLS certification, candidates must have either:

  • A high school diploma or equivalent, and five years of experience in a legal setting; or
  • An associate degree in any field and four years of experience in a legal setting; or
  • A bachelor's degree in any field and three years of experience in a legal setting.

The PLS exam covers topics such as legal research, document preparation, ethics, substantive law, and office management. Obtaining the PLS certification indicates a high level of expertise and proficiency in legal office procedures.