Litigation secretaries work in the offices of litigation attorneys. The work requires traditional secretarial skills, as well as knowledge of the forms and procedures used in the field of litigation. Many of the duties of the job involve assisting the attorney in being ready for trial. This can involve scheduling hearings, formatting and preparing pleadings, and filing court documents. The organization of documents and meeting court deadlines is an important part of the job.
Litigation involves trying a case before a court. In countries like the US, each state will have its own rules of procedure for the formatting and filing of legal documents. In addition to responsibilities of typing and transcribing dictation, a litigation secretary must be familiar with the correct format of legal pleadings such as briefs and motions that are filed with the court. Each jurisdiction has rules about the proper citation of legal authorities relied on in pleadings. Federal district courts have their own rules.
"Discovery" is the process in which each side in a court case exchanges documents that will be used at trial. It involves a great deal of information, and a litigation secretary assists in organizing it and documenting when it was sent or received. Familiarity with the retrieval of electronically stored information is important to the discovery process. The rules of discovery require that documents be submitted to the opposing side within a set time, and the secretary involved helps ensure that the deadlines are met.
Scheduling is an important part of litigation. A litigation secretary is generally responsible for calendaring all the attorney’s deadlines and important dates. These can include hearings, depositions, settlement conferences, and the dates on which pleadings are due. The secretary will usually be responsible for the initial scheduling of hearings and conferences and ensuring that no conflicts arise within the attorney’s schedule.
The duties of a litigation secretary do not always end with the conclusion of the trial. Often one or both or the parties in a civil case may file post-trial motions alleging errors in the trial. The time limits for filing such motions are generally very strict. As with other pleadings, the secretary is responsible for ensuring that the motion is filed in the correct format and copies given to all concerned parties in a timely manner.
Appeals from a trial decision have their own set of procedural rules and deadlines. A notice of appeal must be prepared and filed, usually within 30 days of the court’s decision. A litigation secretary types the appeal brief in the appropriate format and makes sure that a certified transcript of the trial record is filed with the appeals court.