Most jobs have been subject to changes over the past few decades as we race to keep up with constant advances in technology. Many technological developments have made life easier, but we need to be aware of how to work with them and stay vigilant.
Tools like spelling and grammar checks are extremely useful, and they are often used to help people proofread their work. However, a good Legal Secretary still needs to have a keen eye to spot any typos or grammatical errors not picked up by software. For example, if you composed an email to a client and typed the words ‘their’ and ‘they’re’, the spellchecker would accept both words as correct without recognising the context in which they are written. Obviously, the reader would realise when one of them is grammatically incorrect, and this would not create a good impression of your English writing skills or of the firm that employs you. When typing professional correspondence or producing documents, spelling and grammar checks are great aids, but you must also double-check the documents yourself to ensure the highest level of accuracy.
With the advancement of technology, it is possible to be in contact with people instantly, wherever they live in the world. This means that instead of having to wait for letters and certain documents to be sent through the post, this process can now be completed by email – so where a response may have taken days or weeks in the past, it is now complete in a matter of hours or minutes. The role of Legal Secretary is therefore one which moves at a much faster pace now. Keeping on top of email communication from clients and colleagues can be a large part of the Legal Secretary role these days. Whilst it is good working practice to respond to people within an acceptable timescale, it can be easy to get drawn in and feel as though you need to respond to people instantly. A sense of urgency can be created which hinders other work. Some emails will require a quick response, but others can be left for a few hours whilst you concentrate on your other tasks. It is beneficial to create a system to stop you from constantly looking at your incoming emails and responding to them immediately. We recommend dealing with your emails first thing in the morning and then again straight after lunch. This will allow you to focus on your other duties without being distracted or overwhelmed by the constant activity of your email account.
Legal Secretaries need to keep up to date with the latest developments in technology to stay at the top of the game. This would not have mattered so much in the past, but now it is crucial to ensuring that you secure your employment and are not put to shame by more technologically aware candidates. You must be competent in working with Microsoft Office, databases, online reminder systems, email systems and electronic filing systems, and you must be able to use the Internet confidently, navigating your way around different websites to obtain information through a top search engine like Google Chrome.
The legal profession deals with confidential information on a regular basis, so extreme care has to be taken in the safety of electronic copies of confidential files and documents. In the past, documents were only produced and kept as hard copies, and they were kept in a very safe physical filing system. These days, it is often required for confidential documents to be shared with someone or a number of people electronically, so it is easier than ever for them to fall into the wrong hands. If sending a document by email, make sure that you check the recipient’s email address carefully before sending so that it is not sent to the wrong person. This can be an easy mistake to make if you are in a rush and not concentrating properly. Also ensure that you do not leave your email account open whilst you are not at your desk. If you have a break or leave work for the day, always log out of any systems or databases you are using. You will be required to delete documents when they are no longer needed and to protect and encrypt files where necessary, being vigilant about who gets access to them. If you are not focused, it can be easy to leave a vital USB stick in the wrong place or to lose an important password, so you must take all measures necessary to ensure that information stays confidential.
We have shared a few examples of how technology has changed the Legal Secretary role. Leave a comment below to let us know about your experiences. We would love to hear from you!