Here at CoLegal, we have written about the evolution of secretarial roles and in-demand skills within the legal sector. As part of this evolution, there has been a change in the roles and responsibilities for legal support staff which has resulted in the introduction of many new role titles, creating confusion around what this all means. So, let’s clarify what the titles and roles mean - our expert Legal Support recruiter Simone, has provided the below unique insights.
Legal Administrator / Secretary / Assistant
These role titles all refer to the same or a similar position. The title name simply comes down to what the firm chooses to use as a title. Best broken into levels of seniority, the responsibilities are different depending on the level of experience required:
• Junior: 1-2 years’ experience and generally responsible for opening and closing of files, AML compliance, printing and collating documents, scanning and general file management. This can also be known as a Practice Admin or Practice Coordinator within a top-tier structure.
• Intermediate: 3-4 years’ experience and directly responsible for supporting lawyers and professionals within the team. Tasks include diary management, research, drafting of legal documents and client correspondence alongside month-end billing.
• Senior: 5+ years’ experience and are expected to have a greater output. In addition to the above, are responsible for more in-depth file management, client communications, complex drafting and can include chargeable work.
A Senior Legal Secretary in a top-tier structure can also be referred to as a Practice Manager where they are responsible for overseeing junior legal secretaries, managing workflows and partner expectations above their normal remit of legal secretary duties.
Often the go-to person within an office, they are responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of the law firm, both with an internal and external focus. Common tasks they will be asked to do are ordering office supplies, stocktaking, corporate events, catering and covering other areas in the business when required.
This is an entry-level position providing administrative support to the legal team. They are responsible for the more basic level tasks within a law firm including filing, photocopying and data entry.
Office / Practice Manager
Office managers manage the operational side of law firms. This includes day-to-day operations, managing the team of administrators and ensuring the office is running smoothly. A role that covers the breadth of the practice tasks commonly can include finance or trust accounting; HR responsibilities such as policies; hiring and dismissals and extend to managing the firm's IT. Sometimes these roles are filled through internal staff progression.
Not a common term used in New Zealand and most commonly found in litigation, it is used to describe a trained legal professional who provides support to lawyers. Tasks are likely to include legal research, discovery, bundling, drafting and managing client files.
A Legal PA differs from a corporate PA as Legal PA’s tend to support a Partner and a team of lawyers. Duties include calendar management, appointment scheduling, travel arrangements, invoicing, client onboarding, file management and third-party liaison. Senior PAs who have been working with one partner for a long period are often highly trusted with confidential information and given elevated responsibilities by their partners.
The first front-facing interaction for visitors into the office who play a crucial role in creating a positive first impression. They are responsible for greeting guests, answering phones, meeting room management and management of client-facing office areas. In smaller firms, this role will also extend to include junior legal administration tasks such as AML compliance and filing.
Registered Legal Executive
A trained qualified Legal Professional who provides support to lawyers and is often working in a fee-earning capacity. Registered Legal Executives generally operate in areas of property law, trusts and estates. Registered Legal Executives working in the dispute resolution area are sometimes considered the NZ equivalent of a ‘Paralegal’.
In New Zealand, a Legal Executive is registered through NZILE. As Legal Executives become more senior, they sometimes develop their own client networks and portfolios.
CoLegal recently published a 2023 Salary Guide which will give you a clear indication of the salary ranges of these different roles. You can download a copy for yourself here: https://www.colegal.co.nz/colegal-salary-guid
If you would like to discuss anything in this blog or the CoLegal Salary Guide give Simone MacDonald a call on 027 224 5228 or email her at email@example.com.