If you're a legal secretary, your job prospects are looking much better these days than they did a few years ago. Law firms are busily hiring to keep up with increased client demand for legal services, and corporate legal departments are growing in order to handle more legal matters in-house. These and other factors can be good news, too, for today’s legal secretary salary.
Much like your career possibilities, your role in the office has grown. In many firms and corporate legal departments, legal secretary duties and responsibilities have expanded to include researching and compiling data for court cases, along with traditional tasks like filing documents, communicating with clients and managing schedules for up to five attorneys.
So when you do get that job offer, it's important to make sure you're getting what you're worth. Before entering salary negotiations, review the following key factors that come into play when a law firm or corporate legal department determines a legal secretary salary.
Your years of experience
Legal secretaries with at least three years of experience are the most sought-after and, as a result, enjoy higher compensation. According to the Robert Half Legal Salary Guide, a legal secretary with three to six years of work history will see a starting salary between $50,250 and $62,000 at a large U.S. firm (one that has 75 or more lawyers), while the average salary range for a legal secretary with one to two years of experience is $39,000 to $48,500 at the same size firm. The numbers increase as the years pile up: A legal secretary salary for a professional with 12 or more years of work experience can range from $61,500 to $73,500.
At U.S. law firms, the average starting range for a legal secretary salary is expected to increase 2.3 percent in 2016. The greatest gains in starting salaries are expected for legal secretaries with three to six years of experience at midsize law firms. These professionals should see salaries in the range of $47,500 to $59,500 per year, a 3.4 percent increase from 2015.
Your skills and areas of expertise
The most in-demand legal support professionals have several years of experience combined with strong technology skills. Law firms desire candidates who have backgrounds in hot practice areas such as intellectual property, compliance, commercial real estate, and litigation or eDiscovery. Keep in mind that, in some markets, hybrid or blended paralegal/legal secretary roles are becoming more common as organizations streamline legal support functions to improve efficiencies. In fact, 71 percent of lawyers say these roles are becoming more common, according to our latest Salary Guide.
Of course, strong interpersonal skills are essential for legal secretaries, and because so much client contact occurs through email, writing skills also are critical. Other desired traits include flexibility, resourcefulness and initiative. And in some markets, bilingual abilities — especially Spanish language skills — are increasingly vital. In terms of technical skills, proficiency with Microsoft Office is expected, as is expertise with document management software and other applications specific to a particular practice area or law firm.
Want a more detailed picture of legal secretary salaries? Download the Salary Guide now.
When you're ready to negotiate
Once you've determined your value, you'll be in a better position to negotiate a salary that accurately reflects your worth. During discussions about your legal secretary salary, remember to be professional and keep your cool. Don't back down too easily, but stay open-minded about compromise. Be clear on what you're willing to give up and what you can't do without — and remain optimistic. Then you and your potential employer are more likely to reach common ground, so you can end up with a result that makes both parties happy.