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Legal Secretaries

History

Over the years, the law has become increasingly complex. Along with that fact, more and more litigation proceedings have occurred which have led to the need for lawyers, first, to explain the law, and second, to pursue its defense. Originally, lawyers hired secretaries for their small, one- or two-lawyer office to assist with general clerical duties. Typing letters, filing documents, and receiving clients were the main duties of these general secretaries. As lawyers were forced to spend more of their time dealing with the difficulties of the law and with their increased number of clientele, secretaries were given more responsibility. The secretaries were transformed from being mainly receptionists to managing the law office, at least the administrative side of it. Lawyers started to look to their secretaries more as legal assistants than receptionists. Today legal secretaries are indispensable to most lawyers and play a major role in each client's case by streamlining all documentation, communication, and research into a usable source of information.

The legal secretary field has also grown in this computer age. Using computers, specialized programs for legal practices, and information technology in all of its forms, typically one experienced legal secretary can handle two lawyers. Although most computer advances have helped the legal secretary field expand, some lawyers are using this technology to increase their own productivity. The lawyer can reassume some duties that the legal secretary does now—reducing the need for secretaries.

Although lawyers may be more computer-savvy, legal secretaries still play an important, but changing role. For example, whereas before the legal secretary took dictation, typed out a letter, and then proofread it for accuracy, now the lawyer may type his own letter on the computer and ask the legal secretary to edit it and to fact check some of the main points. Lawyers aren't the only ones taking advantage of new technology; legal secretaries now have the advantage of using personal computers instead of electronic typewriters, and e-mail and fax machines instead of telex machines. The World Wide Web has made research much easier as well.