GROWTH within the legal profession has outstripped the supply of legal secretaries but, according to legal recruiters, many firms are getting around this by looking at candidates with transferable skills.
Poppy Comino from Link Recruitment told Lawyers Weekly that the increase in workload has led to an expansion in the market for skilled legal secretaries. “Legal secretaries have always been difficult to find, especially the quality ones. But, we are finding in recent times that there has been an explosion in the need for legal secretaries,” she said.
While most legal secretaries have the skills required, there is a short supply of them, said Comino. “It’s just that we don’t have enough of them to deal with the explosion in the market place.”
This means that law firms need to look outside the traditional mould for secretarial talent. “Clients are forced to look outside the square, otherwise vacancies can sit around for a very long time,” Comino said.
“Clients are starting to look at related industries to fill some of their gaps.”
While legal secretaries are highly-trained, Comino maintains that skills gleaned from other corporate settings are malleable enough to be adapted to the demands of a legal environment.
“It depends on the areas of law,” she said. Although some legal practices require specialist secretarial training, there is still scope for staff outside the law to come in and be mentored by other legal secretaries. “These people would have very good administration skills and might have worked in a property background, real estate or in property development,” said Comino.
“The most transferrable areas of law are said to be property, commercial and corporate law” she said.
Apart from the stock-standard approach of employing people through their legal experience, Marnie Devitt, HR manager at Gadens Lawyers, said the firm deviates from the norm when looking for prospective legal secretaries.
“We look at sourcing people from other industries with strong secretarial experience in the corporate world,” she said. According to Devitt, a lot of PA skills can be transferred.
“Adapting to market pressure and sourcing outside the traditional legal avenues was paramount in nurturing and retaining quality secretarial staff, she said. “I think you’re going to struggle if you don’t look at other options outside fully-trained people. That is the purpose of graduate programs.”