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28/11/2006

Secs in the City

by Jo McAndrew

Experienced Legal Secretaries are in great demand. With further training, they can become legal executives or paralegals or gain an apprenticeship and qualify as a solicitor.

SecretaryLegal secretaries provide administrative support and help with the day-to-day tasks involved in running a legal firm. Duties include audio and copy typing of sensitive and often bulk documentation, diary management, client liaison, telephone work, filing, attending courts to take notes, greeting clients and delivering documents.

Qualifications needed to be a legal secretary

Those interested in starting a career as a Legal Secretary would need to have completed a secretarial course. A good legal secretarial course will train you to perform highly specialised work requiring detailed knowledge of legal terminology and various procedures pertaining to the practice of law. When you are starting out, the most important thing to have is a good typing speed.

In addition, a legal secretary should have the ability to pay close attention to detail; have an organised approach; the ability to work under pressure; the ability to work on their own initiative as well as being discrete in order to deal with confidential information. 

Salaries

Salaries vary depending on a secretary’s level of experience as well as the skills that they can bring to their future employer.  

Number of Years:

            Legal Secretaries:

0 – 1 Years

€18k - €20k

1 Year

€21k - €22k

2 Years

€23K - €28K

3 Years

€29K - €32K

4 Years

€33K - €35K

5 Years +

€36K+++

Benefits & Perks

Benefits vary from firm to firm but overall they include the following:

Health Insurance:
Health insurance is considered to be one of the primary benefits on offer for candidates. Group schemes are available whereby employees pay monthly subscriptions through their wages and receive a 10% discount. A number of the larger firms would offer fund or part-fund health insurance for their staff.

Pension Schemes:
Pension schemes are relatively uncommon for support staff in the legal industry. Those firms that do provide a pension scheme usually reserve it as a benefit for employees who have been with the firm for a number of years (i.e. after two years of service).

Holiday Entitlement:
There is huge variation amongst firms with regard to holiday entitlement. Most firms offer the standard 20 days per annum with some firms escalating to 23 days per annum. A common trend in the provision of benefits is compensation for length of service or loyalty to a firm. Many firms offer additional holidays to employees after 2/3 years with the firm.

Flexi-time:
Flexi-time is an appealing but unusual benefit in the legal industry. It affords employees the opportunity to work extra hours, which can be paid as overtime or taken off as time in lieu. Only a handful of firms offer flexi-time.

Over-time:
Most firms would pay overtime to support staff as the legal industry is a pressurised environment, which requires the flexibility to work outside regular working hours.

Travel Pass:
This is rapidly becoming one of the most popular benefits available for support staff in the legal industry. Depending on the firm some employers offer to pay for the monthly travel pass whereas in other firms the travel pass goes through an employee’s wages thus becoming a tax efficient method of payment.

Annual Review:
Most firms would review salaries on an annual basis. A failure to perform reviews promotes discontent, which in turn encourages turnover.

Educational Reimbursement:
Some of the larger firms offer educational reimbursement if the employee is pursuing a course which is related to his/her position within the firm. Upon completion of the course the employee may be of additional benefit within the firm i.e. a legal secretary who completed the diploma in legal studies may be able to run some files under supervision.

Christmas Bonus:
The Christmas bonus is a discretionary benefit, which varies from firm to firm and from employee to employee.

Attendance Bonus:
The attendance bonus is a monetary bonus which an increasing number of firms are offering support staff for consistency in attendance levels.

Reduced Legal Fees:
Depending on the firm some employees may be offered reduced legal fees for the sale or purchase of property. Smaller firms tend to offer this service to employees more so than larger firms.

Promotion prospects

Legal firms tend to promote staff from within once they have proved their ability to manage files independently. For those working as a Legal Secretary who would like to move up the career ladder, many complete a Diploma in Legal Studies, which will aid them in gaining a position as a Legal Executive. Many Secretaries who receive solid training decide to further themselves within the Legal sector by qualifying as a Solicitor.

The Job Market

Legal Secretaries are in a favorable position as there is a constant need for their skills in the Dublin market at present. There is always a consistent demand for experienced Legal Secretaries particularly right now in the area of Commercial Property and Commercial work. This is due to the high levels of construction in Ireland as well as the increase in companies setting up in Ireland.

'City' experience is normally required by the large Dublin Central legal companies. Their business involves large scale and international operations (Mergers, Project Funding, Rights Issues etc). Local companies are normally confined to Litigation and Conveyancing.

The Legal Division at Meghen Group has first hand experience of this growth as we have four consultants that recruit exclusively for Legal Support positions for permanent, contract and temporary roles. There appears to be renewed energy in the industry, which has encouraged some firms to expand. This expansion of course creates additional opportunities, which prompts movement on the candidate’s side.

Jo McAndrew is the Legal Business Manager of the Meghen Group.

www.meghengroup.com

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