As readers of this blog know, I spent over 13 years working as in marketing and PR for various law firms, rising to Marketing Director in the last post I held before leaving to have Caitlin and Ieuan.
I have to admit, with hindsight, leaving my job entirely was possibly not the best thing to do because, after nearly 10 years out of the workplace, it seems as if it would be a real challenge to return – at least to the level where I once was.
I’m not complaining and I am now a full time blogger and perfectly happy with my lot but I do know other mums who feel as if their career has stalled or, if like me, they’ve given up work, feel stepping back on the career ladder would be a Herculean task. And what about those of us who are ’empty nesters’, looking for a new phase of life now that the kids have left for university or to start jobs?
There are, however, ways to do it but it requires grit, determination and the frequent need to retrain or adopt some self study. Of course there are costs involved which you may have to fund yourself but, in general, I firmly believe any investment in education is always going to be worth the money.
To give you an example from the profession I left, becoming a legal secretary is a great route back into the job market place and one which, if you work hard and are diligent about learning as much as possible, can take you to the top – partnership in law firm terms.
It’s a great way to develop your career – particularly where law firms offer services such as conveyancing or private client work such as family law (wills, probate, divorce, child issues).
Not only can you find jobs at solicitors’ offices and barristers’ chambers, there are job opportunities at law courts, local authorities, government bodies, the police or even estate agents.
So what does a legal secretary actually do?
As the name implies, legal secretaries carry out secretarial tasks that are specific to law. For example, they may help with the writing of legal documents, conduct research and read legal articles, as well as general secretarial duties such as answering the phone and dealing with correspondence.
You might also deal with clients and go out and about delivering documents or accompanying solicitors to courts or police stations – depending on the field of law you are employed to assist with.
As a legal secretary you can expect to earn anywhere from £18,000 as a starting salary (starting around £25,000 in London) up to £45,000 as an experienced legal secretary and, as mentioned previously, it is possible to use the legal secretary role as a launch pad to higher paid and related careers.
If this is for you, you will need a training course where the qualification is recognised by The Law Society and the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority – ideally Legal Secretary Training which is CPD accredited.
CPD is a type of ongoing study which is a requirement for solicitors and other professionals to ensure that their knowledge basis is kept current so that they can offer the best service and client care.
The key skills you need to make sure your course covers are:-
*MS Office (especially Word). You will be doing a lot of typing and possibly also audio typing.
*A thorough grounding in the legal system
*The various kinds of legal forms
*Contracts – types and how they may be formed and breached.
Ideally you also want to make sure that your course is taught by a qualified lawyer in a hands-on, practical classroom environment. The law is continually changing and it is vital that you are taught by someone who is up to speed with this.
You can find a good intensive course where you can cover the basics in a one week (with home assignments) or assisted learning with in house tutor sessions supported by home assignments over one month.
Before you sign up for a course though, you should make sure that you have a good general level of education with good written and spoken English. You will also need previous PA or secretarial experience or, if you have none, starting off with a general secretarial / PA course will give you the necessary grounding.
The beauty of private courses too, is that you are not relying on fitting your study around the academic year – you can start at any time.
As a way back into the work place, becoming a legal secretary is certainly worth considering and the rewards are certainly there for those who are determined to rise to the top.