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Ask Eula Mae: Where Do I Begin? Some Basics of Becoming a Legal Secretary

Posted By NALS Editorial + Marketing Board, Thursday, March 22, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Dear Eula Mae:


I’ve worked as a temp for a long time as a data entry person, receptionist, and typist for various legal offices.  Recently I had the opportunity to fill in for a few weeks at a law office as a legal secretary and as it turns out the person I was covering for won’t be back. The office has just hired me as a legal secretary and I’m so excited!  I want to do a good job and feel like there is so much to learn to succeed in this position. Can you give me some advice on where to start to build a career in a law office?



So New in New York



Dear So New:


It sounds like you have a natural ability to become a great legal secretary and the fact that you care will guarantee you a wonderful career in this interesting profession.  The first thing you need to know is what is expected of you in the office where you work. That means you need to have a conversation with your immediate supervisor and the office manager and/or human resources person.   


The next step is to read the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct because your attitude and behavior reflects your boss and the office.  Your attorney boss is responsible for your conduct and strictest confidentiality must be kept in your work. 


It is a good idea to have access to the Rules of Civil Procedure and your local rules, found on your county and state courthouse websites. One crucial skill to focus on is proofreading. You have to be exact on dates, grammar, and punctuation within the various court guidelines.  For a quick reference, see the current edition of the Gregg Reference Manual and http://proofthatblog.com/ by Kathy Sieckman, PP, PLS-SC, ACP. As part of proofreading, you will also need to know the proper way to type citations.  For this, refer to The Bluebook.  These are books and resources that you need to have at your desk, along with Black’s Law Dictionary.


One of the greatest resources is to get involved in your professional organization, NALS…the association for legal professionals.  Your local chapter will help you establish connections with other legal professionals and provide educational opportunities too. The NALS website gives you access to publications, upcoming classes, reference materials, and great networking opportunities.  You can arrange for a mentor to guide you in your work and your career.


Examples of other resources include The Paralegal Mentor, Vicki Voison’s website; Paralegal Today Magazine, which should be later on your list, and remember to check to see if your local college has a paralegal studies program; the podcast, The Paralegal Voice, with NALS' own Carl H. Morrison, PP-SC, AACP; and various Facebook groups including NALS local and state associations and other groups that you can find by searching for 'paralegal.'


From time to time, NALS offers wonderful training events, The Basic and The Advanced Legal Training Programs, which you should take in order. These programs will teach you about the law and your role as a legal assistant as well as prepare you to test for certification through NALS. The NALS Paralegal Certification is a program that is approved by the American Bar Association.


All the best to you in your new chosen profession. You will love it. Every day there is so much to learn.

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