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The legal secretary is the backbone of any law office, handling a lot of the logistical functions like taking calls, mailing, and scheduling. Because the legal secretary's work is the foundation for the business side of the law firm, hiring a bad secretary affects everyone in the office.
When you're hiring a new legal secretary, avoid these three mistakes lawyers make so that your new legal secretary is, in a word, awesome.
1. Not testing their skills
Administrative assistant positions are largely skill-based. You have to be able to type quickly and not only navigate Microsoft Office, but esoteric case management systems, as well.
Every serious potential hire for a legal secretary position should be given a skills test as part of their interview. If applicants can't quickly and efficiently perform tasks in Microsoft Word, for example, then you shouldn't hire them. (That's why we still put requirements in job listings that candidates have to know how to use Microsoft Office.)
2. Not examining their work ethic
The law, especially trial work, is heavy on deadlines. Lawyers work on documents right up until the deadline, then expect the support staff whose job it is to file those documents to be there at the last minute.
Failing to find out whether your legal secretary has an aversion to staying late or putting deadlines first can be a problem. Anyone who insists on clocking out at 5 even if the job isn't done yet probably shouldn't be in the law or legal support fields.
3. Not making sure they're pleasant to work with
A critical component of every job interview, from the employer's perspective is, "Do I want to work with this person every day?" Sure, the candidate may have stellar credentials -- but so does Doctor House, and would you want him as your legal secretary? Ultimately, when you're choosing between a few fairly equal candidates, the tie-breaker has to be attitude.
A legal secretary, especially, has to be good-humored, as mounting deadlines and stress could crush someone with an anxious disposition, or someone who telegraphs stress to everyone around them. A legal secretary has to have a no-nonsense, calm demeanor. The answer to the question "Can you have this done in an hour?" should be "Yes, I can." Once hired though, don't forget to appreciate your secretary, however, for his or her hard work. That is how you keep a good secretary, once you find them.