Whether you want to help clients win their cases, be at the heart of the courtroom action or simply desire a high-intensity administrative job, the right position for you is waiting in the legal profession. Here’s all you need to know about the hottest admin careers in law.
The most versatile administrative position in law is that of the paralegal. Paralegals may work for traditional legal employers, such as law firms, government agencies and businesses’ legal departments.
But the options don’t stop there. “Because of their useful skills, growing numbers of paralegals work for employers outside the traditional realm of law offices and legal departments, such as with title companies, insurance companies, banks and the like,” notes attorney Hillary Michaud, assistant professor of law and paralegal/pre-law program coordinator for Villa Julie College. “They also work the gamut of civil legal specialty areas, such as corporate and transactional, estates and trusts, real estate, family law, antitrust, securities and so on. In addition, paralegals also serve in the area of criminal law, both for the prosecution and defense.”
Paralegals’ top responsibility is to assist lawyers. This is done primarily through investigating facts, preparing legal documents and researching legal precedents, explains Steve Bohler, director and head career coach with the Oxford Program, an online workshop for adults who want to uncover their natural talents.
Skills/Requirements: Paralegals must have a certificate from an American Bar Association-approved school, and a working knowledge of the local rules and Rules of Court/Civil Procedure is also helpful. These professionals rely heavily on reading comprehension, data analysis, writing and active listening.
Court reporters, seen tapping away on those tiny typewriters, transcribe spoken or recorded speech into written form. These professionals typically use a stenotype (a shorthand machine) or stenomask (a mouth mask with a microphone built in) to produce official transcripts of court hearings, depositions and other official proceedings. Court reporters are most often employed by law firms and judicial departments at the city, state or federal level.
The best court reporters have good poker faces, says James Sanderson, vice president of administration for the Rosen Law Firm in Raleigh, North Carolina. “They are just there to take information; they don’t react to what they are hearing,” he says. “Court reporters are a neutral party to record the information.”
Skills/Requirements: Typing speed and accuracy (225 correct words per minute) and good listening skills are critical for this job. Some states require court reporters to be notary publics. Training varies, depending on equipment used and type of reporting done. The National Court Reporters Association is a good resource for finding degree and certificate programs and reviewing state requirements.
Legal secretaries provide essential administrative support to attorneys and paralegals. They largely prepare legal documents, including summonses, complaints and subpoenas, as well as provide more traditional admin services such as scheduling meetings, answering phones and filing.
“The kind of person best suited for this sort of job is someone who is technologically savvy, has good communication skills, works well as part of a team and is interested in the field of law,” Michaud says.
Skills/Requirements: Microsoft Office skills and excellent editing/proofreading skills are musts.