A legal secretary role is primarily computer-based – therefore the ability to use technology to improve efficiency for the job is essential. It is expected that they will have skills including fast typing, an understanding of commonly used computer programs and understanding how to use standard office equipment.
As technology plays a big part in the role of a legal secretary, we have put together a special piece about the technology tools legal secretaries say they use on the job, every day. This blog is provided by our wonderful partners, the Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs.
This is an old and very common tool that the majority of law firms still use. Firms require secretaries to create legal documents from scratch, or use templates from Word, so it’s essential for legal secretaries to have a good understanding of the program to be able to complete formatting, writing, proofing and editing tasks.
Excel is also a commonly used Microsoft program. Many firms will use Excel to track their billing hours, monitor invoicing, and send and record quotes. If you work in a conveyancing practice, you may also need to use Excel to create completion statements and cash accounts for your clients.
Microsoft Outlook is the third most popular Microsoft Office tool. Email is a fixed aspect of the legal world, and whether it is internal or external, be prepared to deal with plenty of them. The main factor that makes Outlook a good management system is that you can do so much more than simply organise emails with it. You can set reminders, list tasks and even manage and share diaries. Organisation is important to Legal Secretaries and having one program that can help organise all these factors is a real plus.
Diary and Email Management Systems
Besides Microsoft Outlook, there are other programs that will help you to organise your emails. The main thing is to find one that suits your needs, so that you have a set system in place. Popular choices are Outlook, Gmail, Mozilla Thunderbird and Opera. It may be that your workplace already has an email system in place that you will need to be familiar with.
Legal Secretaries will often be in charge of one or more of their fee earner’s diaries, so for both parties to monitor, track and update the diary from anywhere at any time, diaries are now more commonly electronic than traditional paper books. This has brought a whole new area of essential technology into the law firm. There are many different types of diary management software that you can choose from, including the previously mentioned Outlook and Osprey.
Case Management Systems
Legal cases come with a lot of paperwork. And paperwork must be regularly tracked, shared, updated and worked on by different parties throughout the process. Legal processes also normally have various steps and stages. For example, conveyancing has multiple stages, all of which require a variety of searches, documents and paperwork. Case Management Systems allow the professionals working on the cases to keep track of what has and hasn’t been done, to provide a better understanding of the progression of the case. It also allows for different people to manage each task.
Case Management Systems not only allow for case and matter management . They also allow the ability to monitor tasks such as tracking time and billing, research, communication and collaboration, data security, storage, and archive accessibility a lot easier than with paper case files.
Most firms will source case management software and then adapt it to fit their own processes, meaning each firm’s system will differ slightly. For a legal executive using case management systems, the ideas and processes are generally the same, making it easy to adapt if you change roles.
Currency Converters and Translation Software
International law firms need to be able to work with different currencies and languages. Legal secretaries will often be the people given the task of adapting these files and figures. Therefore, a good currency converter and access to reliable translation software is crucial. Some of the examples provided by working legal secretaries include Google Translate, Wordfast and Smartcat for translation, and the XE Currency Converter.
These will also be helpful for legal secretaries whose fee earners travel a lot, allowing for easier planning and booking of travel arrangements.
An eCopy is an electronic copy of a paper document. Law firms will often need to have paper and electronic copies of legal files, and this can create a lot of extra work for secretaries if they are the ones typing and editing them. eCopy software converts paper documents into editable electronic files, making it easy to share, store, edit and update documents. This is particularly useful for deeds that often have multiple versions sent between parties.
There is a wide range of eCopy software available from recognised names such as Nuance, Adobe and Kofax.
Legal secretaries and PAs will also make use of the many apps available for their day-to=day workload.
A popular use for apps is to allow legal secretaries to manage their to-do lists and keep organised by having access to them on the go. Apps like Microsoft ToDo (formally Wunderlist), Todoist and Trello are popular choices to keep different projects in check.
ToDo allows you to create personalised to-do lists that can be synced across all your devices, to keep everything neat and tidy. You can categorise, colour-code and prioritise multiple lists, while also adding notes, reminders and alerts as you go. This app is perfect for people who constantly add or expand on their written to-do list.
Todoist is a task management app rather than just a to-do list. It offers the organisation and clarity that other apps provide, and allows for multiple people to work on projects, so delegation can be easily involved.
Trello is a very simple and easy-to-use app, allowing you to create wonderful lists, boards or cards to help you plan and remember things easily. you can also colour co-ordinate to keep everything neat and tidy.
Apps also facilitate communication. Instant messaging such as Whatsapp for Business allows secretaries and their colleagues or fee earners to communicate quickly and privately. It helps with organisation and is especially useful when fee earners are out of the office.