What’s Happening To Legal Secretaries?
There used to be two very distinct roles in law offices: legal secretaries and paralegals. Their paths might cross, but their responsibilities were different and so were their pay grades. Paralegals generally have more education, and their duties include assisting attorneys with cases, while legal secretaries are more on the clerical end of the legal profession: writing summonses, subpoenas and other documents; perhaps conducting research; and performing secretarial duties like answering phones and manning the front desk.
The Wall Street Journal wrote an article that claimed the legal secretary position was dying, while Economic Modeling retorted that, no, it was aging. Legal secretaries are mainly baby boomers; and as such, they are having progressively harder times finding jobs. Post-recession, law firms are finding it economical to roll the paralegal and legal secretary into one position.
This can backfire for a number of reasons, especially if the firm is larger than more than a couple of attorneys. The paralegal/secretary can easily become overwhelmed. There are only so many hats he or she can wear at a time. If that person is expected to answer phones, man the desk, write a subpoena, scan documents, do the billing, and order Friday lunch for everybody, well, something’s gotta give, people.
That’s why costs are cut even further. Lawyers are typing their own briefs, per that Wall Street Journal article. Traveling costs are down. How are legal secretaries supposed to survive?
The argument made by Economic Modeling was that because the legal secretary market is aging, not dying, it is actually making room for new secretaries. There will be a “flurry of retirements” and “55 million job openings” through 2020. So while it’s not great right now, it’s “on the rebound.”
What can you do about it?
The key is to market yourself accordingly. Perhaps in the interim it would make sense to take more classes and become a paralegal, which would truly make you formidable. If finances make that impossible, then let SuitsOn Staffing help place you as a legal secretary. We have connections that have withstood a slumping job market, and we know that we can help you succeed. Contact us today.