Note: Completion of a TAFE SA course does not guarantee an employment outcome. Formal requirements other than educational qualifications (eg licensing, professional registration), may apply to some occupations.
||Openings 5 years to November 2019: 5,001 to 10,000
||Median weekly earnings: $1051 to $1300 to Source: Australian Government Department of Employment 2015
||If you are confident, can keep up with a heavy workload and juggle 10 things at once, then you may have what it takes to be a legal secretary.
In South Australia, there are around 734 secretaries employed in the legal and accounting or justice fields. Majority work in the Adelaide metropolitan area. Most legal secretaries are females, work full-time and are in the 25 - 34 years age group.
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TAFE SA courses that may be relevant for: Paralegal
Legal secretaries provide the support necessary to keep solicitors, barristers and law clerks churning out documents by the score. While no longer tied to typewriters full of carbonised copies, they nevertheless take responsibility for ensuring the efficient production of large volumes of correspondence, documentation, and a wide range of administrative tasks. '
Although many legal secretaries now pass the bulk of their typing to 'WP' (word processing operators), they still have plenty to do. Besides screening phone calls, scheduling appointments, and providing non-legal advice to clients, they may be required to prepare invoices, key time sheets, update databases, open new files, send faxes, clear the partner's email, photocopy and bind documents, organise filing systems, maintain and archive files, liaise with the accounts department, and perhaps calm down a client or two.
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To become a legal secretary, it is usually necessary to complete an office or secretarial course which includes audio typing, word processing and computer skills. General office and administration experience is also an advantage. Secretarial and office-related courses are available through various TAFE Colleges and a number of other registered training organisations. For further information, please check out the TAFE and NTIS sites below.
TAFE SA offers courses relevant to this occupation including the Diploma of Legal Services. Pathways include the Certificate III in Business Administration (Legal) and Certificate IV in Legal Services.
SA Apprenticeships are available in this occupation for further information go to the Traineeship & Apprenticeship Services Website at http://www.skills.sa.gov.au/apprenticeships-traineeships or phone the Freecall number 1800 673 097.
Good legal secretary can expect to work for a senior partner, or a barrister. Barristers usually require their secretaries to have more than just good typing skills. They generally want someone who can maintain their accounts and computer systems as well as prepare legal documents at a moment's notice. Skilled secretaries also often advance to becoming law clerks or 'para legals'. Depending on the area of practice involved, a secretary may be asked to perform basic legal research and preparation of documents under the supervision of a qualified legal professional - as not all areas of law can support a clerk. With experience, the secretary can be officially appointed as a clerk and a new secretary assigned to their previous position.
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Nature of the Job
Occasionally, legal secretaries may get an opportunity to prepare marketing seminars, coordinate special interest group meetings or arrange travel schedules. In small practices, they may also need to manage the accounts (incoming and outgoing), purchase stationery and equipment, and maintain or install software.
Legal secretary's job is made easier today by the use of macros or templates. These are often provided (on disk) by government authorities such as the Australian Securities and Investment Commission or the Department of Land Administration, or they may be constructed in-house by the firm's computing staff. Either way, they make for easy production of documents, without the secretary needing to know how to create complicated forms from scratch. The downside to all this technology, however, is that legal secretaries now need to know more than ever before. The variety of software now available means that new secretaries and relief staff have to be trained in that firm's set-up before they can commence work. Which may mean that they may need at least two hours' training before they can type a letter!
Typical Physical Working Environment
Most secretaries work around 40 hours a week, often under considerable stress, and some may work additional hours to complete documents on time or catch up on a mountain of work. 'Being able to leave something half-finished and move on to something more urgent is a very necessary skill,' advises Liz.
Wherever they work, legal secretaries will be required to have excellent typing speeds (usually 65 words per minute plus) as well as advanced word processing and audio typing skills. They will also need to be well organised, able to prioritise, and, above all, able to keep a secret.
Typical Occupational Example
Match that with a knowledge of legal terminology and procedures in a given area of law and you can see why good legal secretaries are becoming increasingly hard to find. Although most legal secretaries don't initially choose a particular area of law, once experienced, they tend to stay with that field (whatever it may happen to be). They may end up working in criminal law with the Crown Solicitor's Office, family law with Legal Aid, or commercial law or litigation with a large, or small partnership. Working in a well-appointed city high-rise or cramped suburban offices, they generally work for three or four members of the professional staff. In a large firm especially, they may work for a partner, one or two solicitors, and an articled clerk. Secretaries working in small offices may work for two partners or, if working for a barrister (a legal specialist), they may work for a sole practitioner.
Experience Rewarded A general shortage of highly-skilled legal secretaries means some firms are willing to pay as much as $40,000 to $45,000 per year for the right person. Less experienced or more junior secretaries may start at around $25,000 to $30,000 and more senior secretaries will generally earn between $33,000 and $36,000. Turnover for legal secretaries, in general, has dropped recently, keeping job prospects average.
For further information about all TAFE SA Courses, phone 1800 882 661 or enquire online