Lawyers and their secretaries may not have as exciting a time as depicted in the films The Firm or The Client, but they certainly have their own views on the 'ideal' other half of the working relationship.
Forget the images portrayed by Tom Cruise, Susan Sarandon or Holly Hunter, the lawyers and secretaries canvassed in a selection of law firms were in no doubt as to the qualities required for their legal dream team.
City firm assistant:
"A good secretary will be intelligent with a good degree of common sense. He or she will be responsive to your needs and while happy to use his or her own initiative, will always ensure that what he or she is doing is what is required. Finally, in addition to the obvious necessary technical skills, the difference between a good secretary and a great secretary is a genuine willingness to be as helpful and to work with you to get the desired end result, rather than simply to complete given tasks."
City firm partner:
"I don't just want an accurate typist, though that is important. I want somebody who is interested in the cases in which we are involved, who is jolly, lively and terribly able and I'm lucky in that I have just got that.
"I believe it is down to me to ensure that my secretary is aware of what is going on generally. We employ very able people as secretaries and therefore I think it would be a waste if we simply used their typing skills. For example, my secretary also takes care of my billing and this allows her to be in touch with my clients and the matters on which I am working."
Three-partner law practice:
"Somebody who can sing in tune."
"Someone with a degree in hieroglyphics."
"Somebody with a slow watch in the morning and a fast one in the afternoon."
"A person who has good communication skills and is able to give clear and precise instructions. someone with a good sense of humour and the ability to keep calm when under pressure.
Both secretary and lawyer should be:
"Unflappable, able to give and take, organised, and communicative, given what can go wrong in a legal office, both also need to have a sense of humour."
And evidence that sod's law still prevails in legal firms can be seen in the following from an assistant: "A good legal secretary will
always to [sic] a final, final check before something goes out since their principal is bound to have missed the fact that the client's name is misspelt or a fax is expressed to pre-date the