Legal secretarial studies programs prepare people to work in legal offices. Students learn how to format legal documents. They also learn basic legal procedures and legal terms.
If you ever watch legal shows on TV, you see a lot of courtroom proceedings. But you rarely see the mountains of legal paperwork that are generated for every courtroom appearance. Many routine legal documents, such as wills, marriage separation agreements, and prenuptial agreements, don't ever appear on TV legal shows; yet they may appear on soap operas, which deal more with the nitty-gritty of life. That's because documents such as these are essential to a smooth-running society. And they not only need correct legal content; they need to be formatted correctly.
It is possible to learn the skills for being a legal secretary on the job, especially if you have high school training in typing and word processing. But job prospects are better if you have formal training in this field. A common route is to enroll in a one-year certificate program. A large number of community colleges offer such a program. So do many proprietary schools. Of these, about 90 are approved by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools.
You should expect to improve your keyboard speed in this program and achieve about 60 words per minute. This speed is a common requirement for work in this field. The certificate program may require that you demonstrate a certain speed before you enter.
The law depends on the exact use of words. As it happens, many of the words used in the law are in Latin or old-fashioned French, and even the English words may have a different meaning than they do in everyday usage. So as part of your training you study legal terms such as "ex parte," "pro se," "voir dire," and "discovery." The law also depends on certain standard procedures such as the filing of briefs, so you learn about them as well.
You study the formats of legal documents. Some of the formatting requirements (for example, footnotes and tables of authorities) are rarely used in the rest of the business world. You learn how to create these formats using word processing software. You also learn how to use database and spreadsheet programs for managerial functions in legal offices. You learn other skills for keeping an office running smoothly, such as scheduling appointments.