Firms, legal bodies create legal secretary competency standard

Almost 40 firms and professional legal bodies have agreed on a framework of competency standards for legal secretaries in a bid to improve their career paths.

Chairman of the Institute of Paralegals James O’Connell organised the drafting of the framework and explained that it has two main purposes.

“Firstly, it’s to help existing secretaries, employers and recruiters talk to a common benchmark,” he said. “Secondly, it is helping to try to create a de facto career structure for legal secretaries of three grades.” The framework is intended to improve the retention and development of legal secretaries by giving them a widely recognised and transportable qualification. It covers the core skills secretaries need at the introductory, intermediate and advanced stages of their careers.

After a year of fine-tuning, firms such as Denton Wilde Sapte, Norton Rose, Pinsent Masons and SJ Berwin, plus bodies such as the England & Wales and Scotland Law Societies, the Ministry of Justice and the Police National Legal Database are now on board with the final draft.

Many larger firms already have individual competency frameworks for legal secretaries, but this is the first attempt at a transportable national assessment criteria.

The aim is ultimately for these other firms’ frameworks to also be recognised within the national framework.