Many legal secretary qualifications are similar to the ones needed for other secretarial positions. These include filing, typing at least 40 words per minute, and ability to use word processing software. He or she should also be familiar with different types of legal documents and how they might flow through the court system; knowing some legal terminology is essential. Good interpersonal skills and the ability to maintain confidentiality are useful qualifications, because a legal secretary often deals with a variety of people under very stressful circumstances.
Drafting correspondence and maintaining client files are two common tasks performed by legal secretaries, and many legal secretary qualifications are often clerical in nature. An attorney may ask a prospective employee to take a typing test to show he or she can handle preparing large volumes of material. Knowing how to use word processing software is also an essential part of the job. A legal secretary might also keep account ledgers, so basic bookkeeping skills and spreadsheet database training is sometimes required as well.
During legal secretary training, a great deal of emphasis is placed on legal documents. This is because this worker may often file, read, or prepare these documents on behalf of the attorney. He or she might also deliver paperwork to clients or file them with a court clerk. Since the secretary may not be given a great deal of instruction on doing this, one of the legal secretary qualifications might be knowing what these documents are used for so they can be filed or mailed as appropriate.
Legal ethics largely determine the relationship between a client and law firm. Many legal secretary qualifications are determined by local rules of ethics, and may include an ability to maintain confidentiality and avoiding a conflict of interest. Other skills might be due to the nature of legal work, as clients typically only see attorneys whenever they have problems they cannot resolve on their own. As a result, a legal secretary must have good public relations skills and an ability to remain calm when dealing with stressful situations.
In many law firms, a legal secretary is the first person a client encounters when he or she visits. If this individual is both friendly and professional, the client's perception of the attorney is more likely to be positive than if the secretary is unfriendly. Clients may also need to talk to the secretary while a case is ongoing, which makes it very important for this worker to be willing and able to relate to them.