The Changing Role of Legal PAs

PA

A legal profession can often be a varied and rewarding career choice. With law continuing to be a popular course with undergraduates, there is always a steady influx of people qualified to work within the industry.

Whilst consistently popular, solicitor and barrister roles are not the only opportunities available to law graduates looking to start a legal career. Their detailed knowledge of the law and understanding of legal procedure makes law graduates ideal candidates to work as Legal Secretaries and PAs. Every year Career Legal publishes a review of the legal market and their 2018 market review has been particularly enlightening with regards to the changing role of Legal PAs in the big-city law firms.

Law firms are evolving due to the advancement of technology and the ability to reduce the cost of administration procedures. Legal services are being delivered quickly and efficiently through sources which allow the higher-ranking members of staff to focus their time on core business practices. Most administrative duties are now being handled by administrative assistants at a more junior level and document production is often being outsourced or sent to regional hubs as it is more cost-effective.

The effect of this is that the traditional role of the Legal PA is changing. Legal PAs are now required to be involved with more senior management tasks, taking care of clients, making decisions on behalf of their boss, managing projects and having a hand in business development. Due to this shift, a more refined skill set is required, so qualified and commercially aware PAs are at the top of the game. Law graduates will find that their skills are highly valued and well-tailored to these newly developing Legal PA roles. In firms where PAs are required to take on a higher amount of responsibility and involve themselves in cases and projects in more depth than before, a PA with a law degree has a distinct advantage. 

Although large city law firms are evolving, the more traditional Legal PA role is still required in some firms throughout the country where the workload is managed well within smaller teams. Of course, not all firms have a large amount of incoming work where outsourcing is required. Having a PA who can manage personal timetables, diaries and travel arrangements; organise events and engagements; and produce legal documentation is still essential. Legal PAs interact with clients and are often the first point of contact, so those who understand law, legal procedures and the individual cases are indispensable.

It is also important for Legal PAs to adapt to changes by advancing their IT skills and being willing to perform more managerial tasks. We have found that evolving firms are now offering their PAs the chance to take on more responsibility through promotions to team manager or executive assistant. The Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs (ILSPA) encourages professional development in Legal Secretaries and PAs so they can continually progress their skills and be the best they can be at their jobs. It is also important for PAs to be aware of any changes which are taking place in the industry, so they are able to adapt accordingly.

ILSPA’s Continuing Professional Development programme emphasizes the importance of ongoing professional development. It is essential for Legal Secretaries and PAs to develop themselves professionally so that they have desired skills and can adapt to changes. CPD enhances the knowledge and skills of Legal Secretaries and PAs, which in turn improves the quality of their work. Solicitors are required to carry out mandatory CPD each year in order to practice law, and we believe it is just as important for support staff to be encouraged to do the same. We highly recommend that our members undertake CPD as we want to ensure that law firms have top-quality staff. You can find more information about our CPD programme here.

Salaries are also continuing to look good for Legal PAs. They are earning an estimated £22,000 - £65,000 a year, depending on their firm, level of experience and role. You may wonder what causes such a salary difference. Well, those PAs that have just entered the profession will be looking at an average salary of £22,000 whilst a PA to a Managing Director would be awarded a salary at the higher end of the bracket. Career Legal has seen that there has been a slightly higher salary increase for Legal PAs in the past year due to administrative tasks being passed on to those at a more junior level and PAs taking on more responsibility.

The Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs is delighted to work with Career Legal to inform people about changes in the industry and ensure that law firms hire the best staff. ILSPA is a professional body who are dedicated to your career every step of the way. Whether you would like to become a Legal Secretary or would like to advance your Legal Secretary career, they are there to support you through your journey. For more information visit www.institutelegalsecretaries.com.

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