Work Traits of a Successful Legal Secretary

So you’ve mastered the core skills of a legal secretary. How do you set yourself apart as an in-demand secretarial professional in the legal field? The answer is learning how to be a good legal secretary by going above and beyond to master these seven important work traits.

1
Be Reliable

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A legal secretary is the attorney’s right-hand person, so reliability is a crucial work trait that will ensure success. This goes beyond showing up promptly. You might occasionally find yourself called upon to stay at your desk long after other offices have closed for the day. Your attorney may have to appear in court first thing in the morning — with an orderly file so he can put his hands on whatever he needs at trial without rummaging.

Make adjustments to your personal life, if necessary, to ensure that this doesn't become a stressful problem and your office knows they can rely on you. Line up emergency child care for these situations if you have kids. Put the phone number of your favorite take-out restaurant in your phone so you can call on the fly when you finally head home. 

2
Be a Self-Starter

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The most successful secretaries possess drive and initiative. They don't sit waiting for an attorney's instructions or assignments — they stay on top of what needs to be accomplished in any given time period. They anticipate their employer’s and clients' needs. They're willing to step beyond their comfort zones to learn new skills that will help keep the practice running smoothly. 

3
Be Efficient

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Efficiency translates to dollars in a law firm, a valuable work trait of any successful legal secretary. It can yield cost-savings that your employer is sure to notice. Secretaries who perform their jobs quickly and efficiently contribute to the bottom line, making themselves indispensable. 

4
Be Discrete

Nesta, London, United Kingdom, Architect Bennett Interior Design, 2007. Credit: View Pictures / Contributor / Getty Images

Legal secretaries handle confidential client files and data, so discretion is essential. Disclosing confidential information, inadvertently or on purpose, is one of the quickest ways to end your legal career. Just as you should leave your personal life at the door when you arrive at work, leave work at work when you close the office door behind you. Avoid rehashing your day with family members or friends. It's easy to slip and say something you shouldn't. 

5
Be Pleasant

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This goes hand-in-hand with compassion. Let’s face it, no one likes to work with a grumpy, demanding or negative employee. Secretaries who are friendly with co-workers and courteous with clients go far in the workplace. That client who's grappling with a serious problem will appreciate a calm smile, but be prepared for anything — remember that you're probably meeting him at the worst point in his life.

Keep smiling even if he's surly and rude. If he needs to be alone for a moment, offer him coffee or a glass of water, then go get it for him. Patience is key. The secretary who handles these issues with diplomacy and tact, smoothing over differences or forging solutions, can become an invaluable member of the legal team.

6
Be Patient

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Attorneys are not always the easiest bunch to work with. Some are chronic procrastinators. Others are pretty sure they're always right, and some are woefully disorganized. An ability to handle all personality types and work challenges with grace is a crucial work trait of any successful secretary. 

7
Be Compassionate

Though all of these work traits stand out as hallmarks of a successful legal secretary, the most important might be compassion. Clients entrust your law firm with issues that are fundamentally and critically important to their lives — something they feel so strongly about they enlisted the help of a law firm.

Handle everything with this understanding and you might find yourself at the head of the pack before you know it. Clients will appreciate it, and the attorneys you work for will as well.