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Sea Change in Legal Secretary Job Duties

Posted Nov 6, 2007 8:13 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A sea change from the way law practice was conducted when senior lawyers learned the ropes means that the traditional job of legal secretary will, within the foreseeable future, be a relic of legal history.

But, in the meantime, today's legal secretaries must perform not only the job they used to do but a far different set of tasks essential to today's young associates, the Daily Record reports. That may make legal secretaries even more essential to lawyers, in the long run, because they are often paid less than paralegals yet capable of doing a wider range of tasks. (Reflecting their changing role, many today prefer to be called legal assistants rather than legal secretaries.)

Young lawyers generally are far more computer-literate than their senior colleagues and draft documents themselves—thus allowing law firms to save by assigning multiple attorneys to the same legal secretary. However, although routine word-processing work is even being outsourced at some law firms, the newspaper says, there is also a trend toward having legal secretaries take on additional work, such as Lexis-Nexis and Westlaw searches, that traditionally have been the bailiwick of paralegals.

Bonnie Rae, a 30-year veteran legal secretary, sees both sides of the equation at her job at Gallagher, Evelius & Jones. For a retired senior lawyer, she not only handles traditional tasks but functions as his computer, sending his e-mail and keeping his electronic calendar. But, she says, “My baby associates who have just gotten out of law school who are extraordinarily computer-literate, for them I’m basically teaching them how a law firm operates."

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