Most people think the legal field is only for people who have gone to law school and taken their state bar exam. This could not be further from the truth! There are plenty of alternative career paths in the legal field. Here’s some of what you need to know to work in law without becoming a lawyer.
Training and Certifications
If you’re not sure how to start on your path to a career in the legal field, you might want to consider a training program. Career Quest Learning Centers offers both a Paralegal and Legal Secretary program. Once you’re trained to be a legal professional, you can seek out certifications from your state or through the American Bar Association. Certifications usually require you to pass an exam demonstrating your knowledge in the field. They can help you stand out from the crowd when you send out resumes or go on job interviews.
Sometimes legal secretaries are also called legal assistants, but that’s misleading. Legal secretaries aren’t full scale assistants. If you were a legal secretary, your role would resemble an administrative assistant. You would answer phones, set appointments, respond to emails and other correspondence, type, and file. You might be in charge of billing and vendor payments. You might transcribe an attorney’s dictation or direct client calls to the appropriate department or attorney. You might help out with some preliminary steps in a case like taking down client questions and general information, but you would not discuss legal strategy and you definitely would not give legal advice.
Paralegals also aren’t allowed to give legal advice, but they’re much more involved in the day-to-day operation of an attorney’s job. If you chose to become a paralegal, you’d need more training and specialized experience than a legal secretary. You’d probably do everything a legal secretary does, and more! In addition to administrative tasks, you would conduct research on legal precedents as they relate to your attorney’s cases. You might also do research to discover the basic facts of individual cases. And once you’ve gathered all the information from varied sources—like clients, witnesses, detectives—you would present it all in a report to make the attorney’s job as easy as possible.
Whether you become a legal secretary or a paralegal, you will need similar skills. You will need to understand how to use technology such as computer word processing, spreadsheets, desktop publishing, and document management. You will also need to be able to communicate well, whether verbally or through email and other written correspondence. You’ll need to transcribe and type with speed and accuracy. You’ll need to be familiar with legal documents and terminology. How’s your attention to detail? It must be top-notch because mistakes can cost time and money. They can even have disastrous consequences for clients. And the best offices are run with a sense of teamwork. If you know how to work collaboratively, you’ll be an asset to the law firm.
If you already work at an office job and want a more focused view, you might want to try your hand at becoming a paralegal or legal secretary. Find out more about a rewarding career in the legal field by calling Career Quest Learning Centers at our Jackson campus at 877-365-8144 or at our Lansing campus at 877-481-4930 today.