The Role of the Legal Secretary

It has always been the case that by delegating certain tasks to a legal secretary, lawyers can free up valuable time for their clients and themselves. Furthermore, ensuring that tasks are handled by the lowest-cost resource at a firm saves lawyers time and clients money.  

However, the role of the legal secretary has changed substantially over the past two decades, predominantly due to the advent of the personal computer. Younger lawyers in particular are much more likely to type their own correspondence and legal documents than those of earlier generations, and digital files have in many instances made paper document management obsolete.  

 But, how much of a lawyer’s perceived “self-sufficiency” is actually a recipe for inefficiency? It’s worth considering. In fact, with a bit of training – mostly for lawyers – you may find that legal secretaries are as vital as ever in keeping you responsive to clients and as efficient as possible, regardless of your office size or practice area.  

 Delegating for Efficiency 

 It will come as no surprise that study after study has found that distractions are the enemy of workplace productivity. What if you could train yourself to delegate a variety of essentially administrative disruptions to someone you trust? You might be surprised at how much more legal work you accomplish in a day – not to mention how much earlier you can leave the office – when you’re not dealing with all the little things that just seem so easy to do yourself. 

 Below are some areas in which delegating to a good legal secretary can be invaluable: 

  • Certain Client Calls and E-mails. We’ve all been the client on the end of a frustrating customer service call or e-chat – unable to get a non-scripted human to help us. Legal secretaries can interact personally with clients to schedule meetings, answer basic questions about process, timing or billing, and even obtain client information. Having a trusted colleague able to answer the phone and respond quickly to e-mails will make clients feel valued and allow you to focus your energy on actual legal work for those clients. 

  • Marketing. If you’ve ever found yourself wasting precious hours trying to format a PowerPoint presentation for a speaking engagement, navigate your firm’s Facebook page, or print labels for a mailing, you know what a distraction marketing can be. Everything from marketing material preparation to social media engagement to your client holiday cards can be handled by your legal secretary. 

  • Mail and Package Receipt/Delivery. If you open your mail over your recycling bin because most of it ends up there, you know there must be a more efficient use of your time. Your legal secretary can prioritize incoming mail and packages for you, as well as prepare your outgoing mail and arrange any required messenger deliveries. 

  • Finance and Expenses. Invoicing and billing can take an extraordinary amount of time each month, as can organizing receipts for taxes and/or reimbursement. General billing can be handled by your legal secretary, as can documenting your client, CLE, and other expenses. 

  • Filing and Organizing. So much of the paperwork we handle now is digital, but that doesn’t mean it requires less organization. An overwhelming number of document drafts can be accumulated by sometimes even the smallest transaction or case. Plus, now that so much communication is done via e-mail instead of by phone, maintaining organized and easily accessible document and e-mail filing systems is crucial to an efficient practice. 

  • Research. Any legal secretary should be able to perform basic research on press coverage of a new law, details about a new client, or information on an opposing counsel for you. And, depending upon the size of your office and type of practice, your legal secretary might even be able to check legal citations via Westlaw or Lexis/Nexis, saving you from scrolling through data. 

Above are just a few examples of the types of things legal secretaries should be handling to help keep your office running smoothly. With today’s fast-paced digital world, lawyers are expected to respond to all variety of communication thoroughly and often at lightning speed. The days of “snail mail” and having the luxury of time to review documents and formulate strategies is long gone. A good legal secretary will allow you to recapture some of that precious time, benefitting you and your clients.