By DebbieH 17 Aug 2017 7 min read

Becoming a legal secretary (including interview with ILSPA senior exec)

Legal secretaries perform essential support duties for barristers, solicitors, and chartered legal executives. In this article, we’ll cover how to become a legal secretary, what qualifications you’ll need, and the possibility of taking legal secretary courses online. We’ve also spoken to Emma Stacey, Senior Executive at the Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs (ILSPA) to give you some insider information.


Legal secretary qualifications

While it is not strictly necessary to hold a qualification such as a degree to become a legal secretary, some employers will expect you to hold a legal secretary diploma before you apply. This is because you’ll need a grounding in general legal theory and practice in addition to administrative skills to enable you to do your job.

There are several recognised legal secretary qualifications, including some that have distance learning options. Some of the most popular courses include the Legal Secretaries Diploma Course from ILSPA and CILEx’s Level 2 and 3 Certificates for legal secretaries.

The ILSPA Diploma is suitable even if you have no previous experience. It covers the various areas of law, general procedures, and legal terminology. You’ll also be taught how to complete legal forms and documentation and you’ll be able to visit the Royal Courts of Justice in London. ILSPA also provides plenty of help and advice on securing your first legal secretary job.

The CILEx certificate is available at either Level 2 or Level 3. Level 2 is designed for those who wish to become legal administrators or junior secretaries while the Level 3 certificate is aimed at those who want to work at a more senior level. Both levels offer students the opportunity to upgrade their certificate to a diploma by completing some additional modules.


Legal secretary courses online

If you are interested in finding a legal secretary course which you can take at home, both ILSPA and CILEx have distance learning options. The ILSPA Diploma can be taken online and can be started at any time of the year. This offers a bit more flexibility as to when and where you study.

CILEx also has a distance learning option which might be particularly attractive for those who wish to continue working while they qualify.


Where to find legal secretary jobs

When it comes to applying for legal secretary jobs, we recommend signing up to as many recruitment sites as you can. Of course, we highly recommend Simply Law Jobs which lists many legal secretary vacancies across the UK. Sign up for the email alert so you know when new jobs have been posted and upload your CV so employers can find you.

ILSPA also have a jobs section on their site. This allows you to search via location, role, and practice area. You can also upload your CV to their site.




We had a chat with Emma Stacey, Senior Executive at ILSPA about her work with legal secretaries and PAs. See what she had to say here.


– You currently work for The Institute of Legal Secretaries & PAs; how long have you worked there & tell me more about your role within the ILS.

I have worked at the Institute since 2004. My role within the company is varied, interesting and I enjoy my work very much. I make important decisions about how the company operates, help to manage our courses and qualifications, provide career guidance to Students and Members as well as liaising with other companies who can help our Members.


– What attracted you to them as a Company? / How did you get your current job?

I previously worked for the National Association of Licensed Paralegals who promote qualifications and career development for Paralegals and used to run a Legal Secretary course. I was very interested in the career path of Legal Secretaries and what was available to them in the way of qualifications and career help. Fortunately, The Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs contacted NALP in 2004 and I was given the opportunity to work for the company.


– What would you like to change about your industry?

Legal Secretaries are occasionally undervalued for the fundamental and hard work that they do for law firms so it is important to raise their profile so that they receive more recognition. The Institute helps their Members with this by increasing their knowledge and skills, encouraging personal and professional development and bringing awareness to the profession.


– Greatest challenge:

My greatest challenge is when we introduce new concepts and integrate them with our existing work so that it all runs smoothly. We are always open to change and improvements within the company.


– Favourite aspect of your work?

Receiving regular and positive feedback from Students and Members who we have helped with their careers. It reminds me of how worthwhile my work is.


– Who do you most admire?

I admire people who are honest, open and compassionate.


– What would you do, as a career, if you weren’t working for the ILS?

I would like to work with disadvantaged children around the world.


– Any recommendations for job-seekers looking at a similar career path to you, or indeed working as a Legal Secretary?

Do as much research as possible about the career you want to pursue. Find out what qualifications or experience you need and how you can enhance the skills that you already have. Be dedicated and positive and you will succeed.


– Previous Jobs:

Legal Secretary, Ashfords Solicitors.
Senior Administrator, the National Association of Paralegals.
Manager, the National Association of Paralegals.


– What was your new year’s resolution and have you stuck to it?

To exercise regularly. Going to the gym after a hard day’s work isn’t always appealing but once I’m there it feels great.


– Interests:

Travelling to experience different societies and cultures – I have been to many countries in Europe, the USA, India, Thailand, South Africa and Japan. I read books on personal development as they keep me in tune with myself, and those around me. Dining and cooking with friends and family is always enjoyable. I love nature as I was brought up in the countryside and like to take walks in the woods or by the sea and watch documentaries such as Planet Earth and Tribe.


Many thanks to Emma for taking the time to share her career experience with Simply Law Jobs. To find out more about becoming a legal secretary, read our job description.