Legal Secretarial Work IS NOT good money

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dh in Northern CA, California

82 months ago

I never could understand how the legal secretary profession got its reputation for being good pay. To anyone who happens to care, here's some info I'm cutting and pasting from the National Association of Colleges and Employers. According to a 2006 salary survey these are the starting salaries for ENTRY LEVEL positions by major:

Accounting $44,928
Business Admin/Mgmt 41,155
Economics 44,588
Mgmt Info Systems 45,391
Marketing 37,191
Computer Science 50,744
Engineering: Chemical 56,269
Engineering: Civil 46,084
Engineering: Computer 53,096
Engineering: Electrical 53,300
Engineering: Mechanical 51,808
English 31,385
History 33,071
Psychology 30,369

Remember these are ENTRY LEVEL! I was making $55k as a legal secretary I left Southern CA in '06 with 5 1/2 years' exp. Granted, that was a little underpaid for the area, but I couldn't have gotten more than $60K at that time, and at that amount, I'm almost capped out. It would only cost of living increases from there on out. For those of you who think that's good pay for a secretary, keep in mind that I rented at the cheapest complext in my city - $1535/mo for a 2+2, and we were getting $100 increase at the end of our lease.

Accountants and Engineers are making 6 figures after about 5-8 years. I go to the law club meetings at the local college and listen to the kids. I tell them to go all the way and become an atty or stay out of law altogether. Don't get tired of law school and decide to be a paralegal or secretary instead, and if you don't finish law school, then avoid the industry altogether!

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wmfowler in Hickory, North Carolina

82 months ago

You're so right, and it goes down from there depending on the location. Same for all secretaries...you must know your employer's job as well as your own, work without supervision, be well educated, be able to swallow being passed over for any type of moving up in any company anywhere, and mostly be well dressed and not miss too many days.

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Princess Sparkle in Birmingham, Alabama

80 months ago

I must point out that most of those "entry level" jobs require a college degree, to be a cpa requies a masters, and engineers take many specalized courses in college.

Now, here's where the legal secretary jobs get a rep as well paying---well paying for the education and skill level. While I have always held legal secretaries in high esteem, it is true that a sharp admin asst with fast speed and software knowlege can get on board with a small law firm, start out, move up. You need only a high school education.

At most of those entry level jobs you posted a college degree is minimum, and there is still competition for those jobs. In my city you do not have to be well educated (college degreed) to be a legal secretary. While I have met some ls who were going to school, to date I have met very few with college degrees and that's with 14 yrs exp with four different firms, large small corp etc.

As far as being a lawyer, you'd better be in the top 10% from a good school or the best firms wont' consider you. There is alot of competition in the law field.

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dh in Northern CA, California

80 months ago

Princess Sparkle in Birmingham, Alabama said: I must point out that most of those "entry level" jobs require a college degree, to be a cpa requies a masters, and engineers take many specalized courses in college....

As far as being a lawyer, you'd better be in the top 10% from a good school or the best firms wont' consider you. There is alot of competition in the law field.

Regarding your comment, "I must point out that most of those "entry level" jobs require a college degree, to be a cpa requies a masters, and engineers take many specalized courses in college," if you look at the last sentence of the first paragraph, it says, "...these are the starting salaries for ENTRY LEVEL positions by major." "By major" is the key word here. Of course a bachelor's is required. Furthermore, the data comes from the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

I always hear people say that legal secretaries get paid as much as people with college degrees. I find that aggravating because it's misleading. Actually, legal secretaries with several years' experience can get paid as much as a college graduate fresh out of school with no experience. At that point, the secretary is likely to be capped out in salary except for cost of living, and the new graduate is just starting out and has potential for growth and tremendous salary increase over the next several years, unlike a legal secretary.

When people ask me about the legal secretary profession, I tell them it's not worth it. It takes several years' experience to earn the salary that a college graduate gets at entry level, and it takes a full time college student 4 years to get that degree but a secretary longer than that to develop enough experience to get the decent pay and when you consider the fact that the secretary is capped out and at a dead end while the college graduate is just starting, the legal secretarial profession is, in my opinion, a waste.

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kmm in Wilmington, Delaware

78 months ago

dh in Northern CA, California said: it says, "...these are the starting salaries for ENTRY LEVEL positions by major." "By major" is the key word here. Of course a bachelor's is required. Furthermore, the data comes from the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

I always hear people say that legal secretaries get paid as much as people with college degrees. I find that aggravating because it's misleading. Actually, legal secretaries with several years' experience can get paid as much as a college graduate fresh out of school with no experience. At that point, the secretary is likely to be capped out in salary except for cost of living, and the new graduate is just starting out and has potential for growth and tremendous salary increase over the next several years, unlike a legal secretary.
.

Hi dh - To play devil's advocate, For those woman who do not go to college- can't afford it or do not want the student loan on their back- Legal secreaty is a good paying job with full benefits at firms and some gals are really good typist and have excellent computer skills. A 20-something gal ,who starts out as a Legal secretary, has a job with beneifts ( 401K) will make it in this world, as long as she changes jobs a few times for more money, and stays long enough to contribute to 401k. If you can type fast on the dictaphone, have good computer skills and learn the learn the legal procedures - it is a good job. 10 years down the road, they will have been building a future that will keep growing (re: 401K) and they hopefully will get married and then it gets better. That is a good plan.

There are plenty of jobs that even though a college degree was required, cap out at 50K. and some start out at 41K, and then get small salary increases or no increases. I think it all depends on the timing of your life, the finacials of your life and if you are able to have the forethought to map out a career plan and with luck - you do not get sideswiped.i

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Lisa in Cherry Hill, New Jersey

76 months ago

I work as a Legal Secretary at a big international firm in Philadelphia. I had a bachelor's degree and was hired at 37K 10 years ago. Now I make a base salary of $52k and bonus amounts to another $3k annually, not to mention benefits, 401k, 27 pto days, etc. Being a Legal Sec is a good way to make decent money. I know of some secretaries who make in the high 60s and depending on where you are, can make alot more. NYC secretaries make 70-100k depending on who they work for (practice group leader, chairman, etc.) We typically get annual increases of 3% and that's not bad money at all. On the downside, it is mindless work to me. I have recently earned a Masters degree in a new field but the economy has been horrible, and I cannot find a new job. Thank God that I have a skill to fall back on.

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CJ in Dallas, Texas

76 months ago

Sounds like a great way to make a good income without having to go to college. I can't believe you are complaining about making $55,000. Be glad you have a decent job. A lot of people who don't pursue higher education don't have good jobs.

If you want to make more, get a college education.

~Carla

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kmm in Wilmington, Delaware

76 months ago

Lisa in Cherry Hill, New Jersey said: I work as a Legal Secretary at a big international firm in Philadelphia. I had a bachelor's degree and was hired at 37K 10 years ago. Now I make a base salary of $52k and bonus amounts to another $3k annually, not to mention benefits, 401k, 27 pto days, etc. Being a Legal Sec is a good way to make decent money.. .

I worked in Philadelphia, lived in Wilmington, DE. I am a Paralegal. SOunds like you might work for Morgan Lewis - good place.

Your income is very good for NJ where you live. THAT income in CA will not get you far- very expensive, as is NYC. AS you know. GLad you like it - base , bonus and benifits- can't beat it - in your area

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Lisa in Cherry Hill, New Jersey

76 months ago

I agree. I considered a switch to NYC and met with recruiters there.....they offered me $70-75k but with the commute and expense it wasn't worth it. They knew that I was getting $55 in Philly, but people who are making $70 in NYC can make a jump to $85, according to the recruiter. It's almost worth it to fudge your salary (bump it up a bit) to get more but they know what the Philly market pays. How much can paralegals make? I considered going thru a certification program but not sure if I'd like it.

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kmm in Wilmington, Delaware

76 months ago

Lisa in Cherry Hill, New Jersey said: I agree. I considered a switch to NYC and met with recruiters there.....they offered me $70-75k but with the commute and expense it wasn't worth it. They knew that I was getting $55 in Philly, but people who are making $70 in NYC can make a jump to $85, according to the recruiter. It's almost worth it to fudge your salary (bump it up a bit) to get more but they know what the Philly market pays. How much can paralegals make? I considered going thru a certification program but not sure if I'd like it.

HEY Lisa in NJ:

You are a pleasaure. DO NOT get your Paralegal Certificaton - It will not increase your salary. YOu are at the top of your game now - and I am very impressed with you. Truly, you have done very well for yourself. Tons of other Legal Secretaries in Philadelphia do not make that pay level - ONly big firms, for the most , will pay that much.

Smart not to go to NYC - the communte alone would kill you - or you would have yto live in Hoboken, NJ or Brookly. SO all your money did not disapear on rent. YOu know it.

Besides you are doing well where you are. Do not mess it up. GO to NYC on weekends and have fun. YOu may already be doing that.

Paralegals do not make much more.

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Lisa in Cherry Hill, New Jersey

76 months ago

Thank you for the compliment and information. I wasn't sure what paralegals made because they bill at decent hourly rates, have their own offices and meet with clients. I'll certainly take your advice and stick to what I have. The grass is not always greener on the other side.

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Caryn in Salt Lake City, Utah in Denver, Colorado

76 months ago

I've been a legal secretary for over 26 years, first in NJ where I grew up and in Utah for the past 12 years. I took an $8,000/year pay cut when I moved to Utah. I am at that point in my life where I am ready to do something different and have been planning my escape from this cubicle prison. I am burned out and bored with my job and I feel like all I'm doing is helping to make the lawyers rich. I work in a large regional firm that does not give staff bonuses at Christmas. I earn $57,000/year which is considered high for the Salt Lake area. To branch out of the legal secretarial profession and into a newfound writing career, I am writing an ebook called "Do You Have What it Takes to Become a Legal Secretary? An Insightful Guide Into the Legal Profession." Do you think there would be a market for such a book? There must be gals out there who think being a legal secretary is a worthy profession and perhaps need a guide like this to help them make the decision. Anyone's thoughts on this would be welcomed.

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kmm in Wilmington, Delaware

76 months ago

Caryn in Salt Lake City, Utah in Denver, Colorado said: I've been a legal secretary for over 26 years, I earn $57,000/year which is considered high for the Salt Lake area. .... an ebook called "Do You Have What it Takes to Become a Legal Secretary? An Insightful Guide Into the Legal Profession." Do you think there would be a market for such a book? .

Hello Caryn- When gals are young and deadset on being a legal secretary, they are blinded by the light. I find that people have to learn on their own. Plenty of gals will get lucky when they start young and meet a man with a good income and het married, and eventually be able to leave the job.

Go with your gut. and good luck

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A happy secretary in Fort Worth, Texas

76 months ago

Two quick things:

- Finding a man and getting married is NOT, I repeat, NOT a viable career option. The young women reading this board deserve better advice than that! Come on, ladies.

- I'm working my way through graduate school as a legal secretary and so far it's been okay. I'm in the mid-40s salary range, but I have fat bonuses, free health and dental insurance, subsidized transit, and lots of non-monetary perks (sport/social event passes, free lunches, flowers, etc.) I also work 8 to 5, five days a week, and have only worked one three-hour Saturday since starting this position a year ago. I take my full lunch hour 95% of the time. I've never had to call in sick to do my school work. My boss knows grad school is the priority in my life, then work. He's been there, for crying out loud!

I think that an LS position is a nice jump-off for any young(ish) career girl. If you're working for the right firm, the job can be very good for you in a lot of ways. You earn a decent living, learn to work under pressure, expand your social network (lawyers are a social bunch), discover ways to placate demanding bosses, and develop a lot of transferable skills that will take you places later in life. It basically gives you a peek inside a high-stakes world without investing too much of yourself.

I'd never consider secretarial work as a 20 or 30 year career, but it's a viable option for administrative types who want to make more than 12/hr while keeping their options open. I intend to stay in the field a couple of years past graduation and then move on. Unless, of course, I find a high-level administrative position with another firm.

Last thing - so many secretaries I know like to gripe about their attorneys. But I have seen way too many "dynamic duos" that respect and admire and depend on each other to believe this is the norm. Go in to it secure in who you are and what you offer, and your boss will give you the trust and gratitude you seek.

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dh in Northern CA, California

76 months ago

Caryn in Salt Lake City, Utah in Denver, Colorado said: I've been a legal secretary for over 26 years, first in NJ where I grew up and in Utah for the past 12 years. I took an $8,000/year pay cut when I moved to Utah. I am at that point in my life where I am ready to do something different and have been planning my escape from this cubicle prison. I am burned out and bored with my job and I feel like all I'm doing is helping to make the lawyers rich. I work in a large regional firm that does not give staff bonuses at Christmas. I earn $57,000/year which is considered high for the Salt Lake area. To branch out of the legal secretarial profession and into a newfound writing career, I am writing an ebook called "Do You Have What it Takes to Become a Legal Secretary? An Insightful Guide Into the Legal Profession." Do you think there would be a market for such a book? There must be gals out there who think being a legal secretary is a worthy profession and perhaps need a guide like this to help them make the decision. Anyone's thoughts on this would be welcomed.

YES-I DO THINK THERE WOULD BE A MARKET. I had a former coworker - 25+ years in the industry - and absolutely SICK TO DEATH of dealing with attys. At her age, she thinks no one outside the industry would be interested in hiring her if she tried to make a career change. She was planning a website to help current legal secretaries and to provide information for those entering this, in my opinion, God-forsaken industry. She was doing research on midlife career changes and I don't know what else. Last time I spoke to her - 4 years ago - she was searching for a former legal secretary who had successfully changed careers out of the industry to use on her website. I she left the firm where we worked together, and I haven't been able to find her.

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Liz in Long Branch, New Jersey

76 months ago

I want to become a Legal Secretary. I worked as Administrative Asst for 10 years in a bank but have no legal background. I'm not sure how to break into this field. Should I temp first to see if I would even like it? I have a BA...do you think I should get a Paralegal Certificate (although this would be time and money for something I'm not sure I'm going to like doing). Maybe I should work as LS for a year to be sure I like it. Then would I need to get the Paralegal certificate? I live in central Jersey. Thanks for your help.

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happy in Fort Worth, Texas

76 months ago

Liz in Long Branch, New Jersey said: I want to become a Legal Secretary. I worked as Administrative Asst for 10 years in a bank but have no legal background. I'm not sure how to break into this field. Should I temp first to see if I would even like it? I have a BA...do you think I should get a Paralegal Certificate (although this would be time and money for something I'm not sure I'm going to like doing). Maybe I should work as LS for a year to be sure I like it. Then would I need to get the Paralegal certificate? I live in central Jersey. Thanks for your help.

Hey there, I got my first job using Craigslist. I worked for a one man office, and it was perfect because I could get his undivided attention when I needed it. I only stayed with that attorney a summer but it got my feet wet and gave me the confidence to find something permanent. You could also temp but the agencies down here are overrun with people because the economy is so bad. Either way I'd definitely set a time limit, 3 or 6 months, where you stop and evaluate whether you really want to do secretarial work long term.

Worry about the Paralegal Cert later - after you've decided whether you can put up with lawyers. :) Your background + BA is enough to open doors! In my experience the certification only helps in large firms, where you will most likely not find work without years of experience in addition to the certificate anyway. One girlfriend of mine worked three years as a file clerk (at a file clerk salary) at a large firm with a CLA designation, just waiting for a paralegal position to open. She ended up leaving to get the job she wanted.

I'd save your money and just try to get in at a small place where you'll be learning on the job. That way you get the education AND the experience at the same time, and someone pays you, not the other way around.

Good luck!

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Liz in Long Branch, New Jersey

76 months ago

happy in Fort Worth, Texas said: Hey there, I got my first job using Craigslist. I worked for a one man office, and it was perfect because I could get his undivided attention when I needed it. I only stayed with that attorney a summer but it got my feet wet and gave me the confidence to find something permanent. You could also temp but the agencies down here are overrun with people because the economy is so bad. Either way I'd definitely set a time limit, 3 or 6 months, where you stop and evaluate whether you really want to do secretarial work long term.

Worry about the Paralegal Cert later - after you've decided whether you can put up with lawyers. :) Your background + BA is enough to open doors! In my experience the certification only helps in large firms, where you will most likely not find work without years of experience in addition to the certificate anyway. One girlfriend of mine worked three years as a file clerk (at a file clerk salary) at a large firm with a CLA designation, just waiting for a paralegal position to open. She ended up leaving to get the job she wanted.

I'd save your money and just try to get in at a small place where you'll be learning on the job. That way you get the education AND the experience at the same time, and someone pays you, not the other way around.

Good luck!

Hi, thanks for answering. I am new at chat rooms/forums so I hope I'm doing this correctly. I have looked on Craigslist and found that if you search for "paralegal" alot of jobs say they want the Paralegal Certificate, however when I searched for "Legal Secretary" none of the postings (about 20) mentioned the certificate. Your advice about waiting and seeing what happens regarding the certificate is great advice...my husband will also be happy with this advice b/c it would cost about $6,000 for me to get the certificate at a local comm college. I stopped working in 2003 to stay home with 3 children (ages b/w 9 and 5)but the 5 year old is goin

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Liz in Long Branch, New Jersey

76 months ago

I'm not sure what happened, I ran out of space...the 5 yr old is going to be in school so I will have about 20 hours to work beginning in Sept. Since I've been home for 5 years, my husbd would rather see me bringing in money instead of having it go out, lol! He is not pressuring me to get a job...he just doesn't understand why I would only get about $14-$16/hr working as an Administrative Asst. That's how I came up with the Legal Secretary b/c it will pay better and be more interesting. I am interested in books written by John Grisham about trials and I watch Judge Judy (do you think somebody would hire me with this limited experience, ha!). Also, when I looked up Legal Sec on Craigslist a few of them said "part time" which is really great for me. I will prob be able to put up with lawyers as I worked as Admin Asst for 12 traders on a trading floor in NYC at major bank.
2 questions:
1. Is a file clerk the lowest position, would this be a good place to start to learn, step in the door?
2. What does CLA mean?
3. Some jobs said I would need dictaphone...how do I learn to do this?
Thanks again for all of your help. Very much appreciated as I don't personally know any Legal Secs. Liz

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happy in Fort Worth, Texas

76 months ago

Liz in Long Branch, New Jersey said: Hi, thanks for answering. I am new at chat rooms/forums so I hope I'm doing this correctly. I have looked on Craigslist and found that if you search for "paralegal" alot of jobs say they want the Paralegal Certificate, however when I searched for "Legal Secretary" none of the postings (about 20) mentioned the certificate. Your advice about waiting and seeing what happens regarding the certificate is great advice...my husband will also be happy with this advice b/c it would cost about $6,000 for me to get the certificate at a local comm college. I stopped working in 2003 to stay home with 3 children (ages b/w 9 and 5)but the 5 year old is goin

Hey Liz,

If you've been out of the workforce 5 years, I'd take refreshers in Word, Excel and a very basic Access course. A lot of firms are "paperless" (which doesn't mean no paper but means electronic trails instead of paper ones) so you've got to be up to speed on technology. Even old school attorneys use email and scanners. They'll teach you the particulars but you'll make a better case for yourself if you know the basics inside out. You can get a book at a used bookstore and practice when the kiddos aren't around.

Also, depending on your practice area, you'll work some weird hours. ASK about overtime at the interview! Sometimes it's required and that may or may not work with your kids' schedule.

Again, good luck! Caretakers do great in this profession...and it's fulfilling if you like to help others achieve. I'm not a mom-mom but I feel like an office mom most of the time!

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happy in Fort Worth, Texas

76 months ago

Liz in Long Branch, New Jersey said:
2 questions:
1. Is a file clerk the lowest position, would this be a good place to start to learn, step in the door?
2. What does CLA mean?
3. Some jobs said I would need dictaphone...how do I learn to do this?
Thanks again for all of your help. Very much appreciated as I don't personally know any Legal Secs. Liz

Okay trial work is not something I would ever do without a family, let alone with one. They start slow and ramp up to hell-on-wheels very quickly. There are a lot of tight deadlines and trial attorneys are a breed apart (drama is how they make money). The pay is good and cases can be interesting but the long hours spent preparing for trial don't work for me as a student.

As for your questions, file clerks can be valued or not, depending on how seriously they take their jobs.

CLA is Certified Legal Assistant. There's a test you can take after taking a paralegal course or after a certain number of years as a paralegal. www.nala.org/cert.htm to check it out.

Oh wow I've seen a dictaphone but never used one! Basically it's a device old school attorney would use to dictate onto microcassettes and then you'd type out what he says. The machine controller sits under your desk and you stomp on it like a sewing machine pedal to reverse/speed up/listen. Seems like you could learn how to work the equipment on the job though. My attorneys are pretty young, and do a lot of their own client correspondence via email. They'll copy and paste to put together briefs. Most of the typing I do is for formal letters for certain clients who prefer hard copy - or emails to clients, where I copy the attorney on the case. We try to email then print for recordkeeping.

I'd give my boss the crazy eye if he said to take dictation. I don't know shorthand. It's kind of an antiquated thing nowadays. And dictaphones...that is a full fledged throwback! :0)

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Liz in Long Branch, New Jersey

76 months ago

Ok, last question, I appreciate you taking the time to write back to me. If I shouldn't go for litigation...what specialty would be good for me. Some examples of craiglist jobs are specializing in: personal injury, matrimonial (is this divorce?), family law. Thanks,

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dh in Northern CA, California

76 months ago

Liz in Long Branch, New Jersey said: I want to become a Legal Secretary. I worked as Administrative Asst for 10 years in a bank but have no legal background. I'm not sure how to break into this field. Should I temp first to see if I would even like it? I have a BA...do you think I should get a Paralegal Certificate (although this would be time and money for something I'm not sure I'm going to like doing). Maybe I should work as LS for a year to be sure I like it. Then would I need to get the Paralegal certificate? I live in central Jersey. Thanks for your help.

I suggest you talk to some secretaries who have been in the field for a while. My experience has been that a great majority of them don't like it and, if given the chance, would start over doing something else. You don't need a degree to be a LS. I would think that, since you have a degree, you could go a lot farther in life doing something else. As a LS, you can't really get promoted anywhere. Of course, that depends on what you have your degree in. My friend earned her degree in Liberal Arts and said it got her nowhere.

I was a LS for 5 years. I could not longer stand it; so I've return to school full time to finish my degree in Ecoomics. I will be 42 when I graduate next year. I'm depleting my entire life savings and accruing massive debt - not a good thing at my age - but I will stop it nothing to get out of the legal industry.

Here's a link to another thread. Maybe you've read it already.
www.indeed.com/forum/job/legal-secretary/05390c183c137e1f707d4501

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Dean Suraci in Cornwall, New York

76 months ago

dh,

your comment about most LS not liking their positions, it's funny to me:

Since coming across Indeed.com and reading the posts whenever I can, I have notice that most people in most occupations HATE their jobs bigtime. I always thought it was just me and my few close friends.

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dh in Northern CA, California

76 months ago

Dean Suraci in Cornwall, New York said: dh,

your comment about most LS not liking their positions, it's funny to me:

Since coming across Indeed.com and reading the posts whenever I can, I have notice that most people in most occupations HATE their jobs bigtime. I always thought it was just me and my few close friends.

Hi Dean-You're probably right. Very recently, I read on article on job satisfaction. A survey shows that a great majority of Americans aren't happy with their jobs. The percentage of Americans who are unhappy with their jobs has risen considerably since the survey was taken several years previously. I think the article said that the biggest reason people were unhappy was because of their bosses. I can't recall exactly.

However, I do know many people who really enjoy their jobs. None of them are legal secretaries. Every legal secretary I know hates it and is just waiting for her time to retire.

I would be willing to bet a lot of money that, if a survey was done on the profession that had the highest number of unhappy employees, it would show that the legal secretary profession has a higher percentage of unhappy employees than any other profession.

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dh in Northern CA, California

76 months ago

Dean Suraci in Cornwall, New York said: dh,

your comment about most LS not liking their positions, it's funny to me:

Since coming across Indeed.com and reading the posts whenever I can, I have notice that most people in most occupations HATE their jobs bigtime. I always thought it was just me and my few close friends.

I thought I'd saved the entire article in my computer, but only a paragraph from it. Here it is:

According to a recent Gallup Management Journal (GMJ) survey of U.S. employees, nearly one-quarter of U.S. employees (24%) would fire their bosses if given the chance. And as many as 51% of actively disengaged workers would get rid if their leader if they could. The odds are pretty high that if you left your company because of your boss, you would encounter a similar situation at your next place of employment. Do your job well, and it will not be long before you are promoted out from under this person.

Unfortunately, as a legal secretary, you can't get promoted anywhere. You're pretty much relegated as someone's bi*tch unless youbchange careers!!

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dh in Northern CA, California

75 months ago

CJ in Dallas, Texas said: Sounds like a great way to make a good income without having to go to college. I can't believe you are complaining about making $55,000. Be glad you have a decent job. A lot of people who don't pursue higher education don't have good jobs.

If you want to make more, get a college education.

~Carla

I am getting a college education. You would know that if you read the posts and knew what was going on before responding. $55K is good money ONLY when considering the fact a degree isn't required. Legal secretary pay looks good because secretaries in other fields get even less, much less.

It's not just about the mediocre pay. It's the tense, hostile, and sometimes abusive environment created by attorneys. It's a crappy way to make a buck and a substandard way to spend 8 hours of your day.

I didn't leave the industry just so I could make more money. While that would be nice, my primary motivation was 1) get away from attorneys and 2) I don't want to be relegated to being someone's bi*tch for the rest of my life.

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kmm in Wilmington, Delaware

75 months ago

dh in Northern CA, California said: I am getting a college education. You would know that if you read the posts and knew what was going on before responding. $55K is good money ONLY when considering the fact a degree isn't required. Legal secretary pay looks good because secretaries in other fields get even less, much less.

It's not just about the mediocre pay. It's the tense, hostile, and sometimes abusive environment created by attorneys. It's a crappy way to make a buck and a substandard way to spend 8 hours of your day.

I didn't leave the industry just so I could make more money. While that would be nice, my primary motivation was 1) get away from attorneys and 2) I don't want to be relegated to being someone's bi*tch for the rest of my life.

Hi dh - WIth your major in economics, and the state of the present economy being in such a bad state, Hopefully, yu will find a job soon, after graduation.

SECOND - I concur with Dh's comments.

$55k sounds like a lot of money. It is - however she lives in California where $55 does not go as far as one might think.

I stand by her comments and her peresonal reasons. I am a Paralegal who worked for lawyers for 10 years.

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kmm in Wilmington, Delaware

75 months ago

dh in Northern CA, California said: Thank you, KMM. I AM wondering what the economy will be like when I graduate next year. I can continue working part time and go straight to my masters. Then be 44 and be a fresh college graduate looking for a job??? It's scary to think about my age and whether potential employers will take me seriously.

Hey dh, good to hear from you. This economy, from what I have read and hear on news - is going to take a long time to start turning around. 3-5 years? who knows. As of now, loss of jobs keeps increasing every month. THis present economic situation is way worse than the crash of the S&L crisis and the tech bubble o fthe 1990's. THey say it is as bad, maybe worse that the recession in 1970's. I do not know a lot about the 70's economy. but now, it is ba, as you know.

GEt a job in your field as soon as you are finished school or you may even get one lined up before graduation. Deal with grad school when it fits in. THat is my opinion. Keep looking young, to cover your age, - seriously, you know age matters. Once you get yur foot in the door with a job in your major- things will open up- I would be watching that student loan debt. Tht is scary stuff- and grad school, more debt. Make sure you get a job before you engage in more debt. THat tis what I would do - and you need to do what you think is best for you.

Keep on trucking. and happy trails. till we meet again - on the forum. ha.

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dh in Northern CA, California

75 months ago

kmm in Wilmington, Delaware said: Hey dh, good to hear from you. This economy, from what I have read and hear on news - is going to take a long time to start turning around. 3-5 years? who knows. As of now, loss of jobs keeps increasing every month. THis present economic situation is way worse than the crash of the S&L crisis and the tech bubble o fthe 1990's. THey say it is as bad, maybe worse that the recession in 1970's. I do not know a lot about the 70's economy. but now, it is ba, as you know.

GEt a job in your field as soon as you are finished school or you may even get one lined up before graduation. Deal with grad school when it fits in. THat is my opinion. Keep looking young, to cover your age, - seriously, you know age matters. Once you get yur foot in the door with a job in your major- things will open up- I would be watching that student loan debt. Tht is scary stuff- and grad school, more debt. Make sure you get a job before you engage in more debt. THat tis what I would do - and you need to do what you think is best for you.

Keep on trucking. and happy trails. till we meet again - on the forum. ha.

Thanks, KMM. I hear different things about the economy. I also have a subscription to both Newsweek and Businessweek. Hard to keep up with the reading with everything else I have going on. I can only pray that it will be better this time next year.

I will be looking for a full time job while attending grad school at night. If I can't find full time, I'll continue part time. I WILL NOT consider being a legal secretary while waiting for the economy to improve. That IS NOT an option for me.!!!!!!! Somebody asked me that. He*ll, NO!!!

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kmm in Wilmington, Delaware

75 months ago

dh in Northern CA, California said: Thanks, KMM. I hear different things about the economy. I also have a subscription to both Newsweek and Businessweek. Hard to keep up with the reading with everything else I have going on. I can only pray that it will be better this time next year.

I will be looking for a full time job while attending grad school at night. If I can't find full time, I'll continue part time. I WILL NOT consider being a legal secretary while waiting for the economy to improve. That IS NOT an option for me.!!!!!!! Somebody asked me that. He*ll, NO!!!

Hey dh - The economy is not going to suddenly turn when a new President is elected. Although the President can mandate, through his powers, certain changes, the rest is left to be fought out with Congress and Senate- and even after a bill is passed, it takes time for the implementation of the bill to have an effect - 1-2 years. The wheels of beurocracy move slowly. (I was a Political Science Major)

I hear you. ONce you get your degree, no more legal sec. Do not wait for the economy to improve. That would be tantamount to career suicide, IMHO.

Onward and forward!

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happy, too in Atlanta, Georgia

74 months ago

I feel enormously blessed by the legal secretarial field in Atlanta. I have an associates degree and earn $65K with generous retirement package, medical, dental, etc. My sister has a Masters Degree and earns several thousand less less as a schoolteacher for roughly the same number of years of employment. Grant you, I work at an intense desk, compared to some other legal secretaries I know -- lots of drafting, e-mails with clients and opposing counsel, etc. I'm hopping all day! But I love what I do, despite the stress. I have my bad days, naturally, and I've had a couple "bad" bosses over the decades. But that's true for most people I know, regardless of their job. Legal secretarial work has brought me emotional maturity - i.e., setting boundaries and handling pressure.

I worked as a paralegal for several years but hated it. The billable hour pressure was relentless, I often had to work weekends, and the pay was actually less than what the legal secretaries earned. I've never regretted returning the legal secretarial field. No more working on weekends! Since that time, large-firm paralegals earn the same or sometimes much more than secretaries, but the billable hour pressure on paralegals has intensified. If you don't pump out the billables as a paralegal, you're out the door in a hurry. There are some legal secretaries I know who surf the internet and e-mail all day for years yet have never been shown the door (yet!).

A college degree is nice, but it doesn't guarantee a high paycheck, especially if you have a liberal arts degree. To be honest, the richest men I know -- two men who each earn well over $1.5 million a year -- never graduated from high school. If money is what you're after and you're not afraid of risk, then start your own business. No one gets very rich working for other people. My experience: It's what you save each year that ultimately makes you rich, NOT what you earn each year

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happy, too in Atlanta, Georgia

74 months ago

P.S. Just wanted to add that my net assets are half a million , which isn't bad for a "lowly paid" legal secretary and actually considerably more than a couple folks I know who earn three to four times my annual salary. I think it may be more difficult to save that kind of money if you're a professional, because you are almost obligated to drive the fancy car,wear designer clothes, etc., just to keep up with the competitive Jones in your profession. Legal secretaries don't have that pressure.

Earning more money often just causes people to spend more. I knew a partner who, with his wife, earned close to 1 million a year. It was common knowledge that the they are always broke. I've known him 20 years -- he was always broke when he was an unmarried associate without kids, too ...... Also, you often find that with more money, there is significantly more responsibility. I don't know of anyone who earns lots more than me who * doesn't * have more stress. Which is why I have never envied my lawyers. Ever. The stress that comes along with the $$? Not worth it to me! It is to them, perhaps, but not to me. My father was highly paid corporate exec who worked constantly. One night, as a teen, I discussed college and career with Dad. He pointed to the massive paperwork he brought home that evening (sprawled out on the living room floor) and said, "Be sure this is REALLY what YOU want for your life before you get that degree. Don't live your life for other people's opinion of you."

I have a friend who is a successful interior decorator ($$). She tells me, "You have two bosses. I have 23 bosses! And I can't go on vacation like you do. The grass isn't always greener."

And I do know happy legal secretaries! True, some of them go through stressful periods (as I do), but overall many are happy. We are tired of working, but we don't blame it on being a legal secretary. We're just weary with the rat race. But it's called work for a reason, y'know..

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C.J. in Fort Worth, Texas

74 months ago

Great post!

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Dee in Atlanta, Georgia

74 months ago

Okay, I'm looking to change my career and thought I could get training as a legal secretary there are only online courses available trust me I researched every local school to find "legal secretary certificate" courses -no live courses mostly online or classes available miles away from home.
Now check out why I'm asking for professional advice, In 2001 I recieved my Paralegal certificate but I do not have a bachelor's degree the pay is low but that's just the law firm I'm with! That I do know- but if I could add LS skills to my portfolio I will move on and market myself because I'm great with self-promotion. I'm lucky because I also teach vocational courses because of my first career. So my interest in the law is why I find myself wanting to learn more.ANY suggestions I want to increasing my secretarial skills.

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legal secretary no more in Omaha, Nebraska

74 months ago

Dee in Atlanta, Georgia said: Okay, I'm looking to change my career and thought I could get training as a legal secretary there are only online courses available trust me I researched every local school to find "legal secretary certificate" courses -no live courses mostly online or classes available miles away from home.
Now check out why I'm asking for professional advice, In 2001 I recieved my Paralegal certificate but I do not have a bachelor's degree the pay is low but that's just the law firm I'm with! That I do know- but if I could add LS skills to my portfolio I will move on and market myself because I'm great with self-promotion. I'm lucky because I also teach vocational courses because of my first career. So my interest in the law is why I find myself wanting to learn more.ANY suggestions I want to increasing my secretarial skills.

Are you dead-set on becoming a legal secretary, or are you willing to consider other professions? I would strongly recommend against working for attorneys.

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Andy in Miami, Florida

74 months ago

CJ in Dallas, Texas said: Sounds like a great way to make a good income without having to go to college. I can't believe you are complaining about making $55,000. Be glad you have a decent job. A lot of people who don't pursue higher education don't have good jobs.

If you want to make more, get a college education.

~Carla

And a lot of people who do have a great (professionally oriented) education do not have jobs, either. If you want I can exand on this.

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Legal Secretary/Paralegal in San Antonio, Texas

74 months ago

Here in San Antonio, most attys see the 2 jobs as one and the same. Pay for titles: as little as $10 per hr, or $20 per hr. and thats for experience of at least 1 yr plus. I feel that if people have a paralegal degree, pay as little as $10-12 per hr is a slap in the face. I was checking on one firm, I kid you not, was offering $7.50 per hr.! Disgusting.

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Ryan/Student in Kutztown, Pennsylvania

74 months ago

I was looking into getting a 4 year degree with a paired major in History/paralegal studies. I was also looking at my local community college which offers a one year legal secretary certificate. I have 65 college credits but no degree. After reading all of these comments I'm not sure if i even want to get into the field at all. I was considering the one year program because of my previous credits, would only take me a semester. My reasoning is I don't have time or money for school. I get little to no support from my parents and really can't afford not to start a real/salary/benefits job, not just part time. If any of you could give me some advice that would be wonderful. I would be working in the greater Philadelphia region. At this point I'm not sure what direction to go in, but it surely can't be backwards!!!!

P.S. Are there really even any men in the legal secretary/aid field?

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dh in Northern CA, California

74 months ago

Ryan/Student in Kutztown, Pennsylvania said: I was looking into getting a 4 year degree with a paired major in History/paralegal studies. I was also looking at my local community college which offers a one year legal secretary certificate... If any of you could give me some advice that would be wonderful. I would be working in the greater Philadelphia region. At this point I'm not sure what direction to go in, but it surely can't be backwards!!!!

P.S. Are there really even any men in the legal secretary/aid field?

Hi Ryan - I would strongly recommend against pursuing any nonlawyer profession in the legal field. My opinion is that it's so NOT WORTH IT. I could no longer stand being a legal secretary; so I left the industry to return to school full time to get my degree. I will be 42 when I graduate next year. I also don't have money for school. I get financial aide. Go to a local community college and tell them what you want to do. They should be able to help you. My last two semesters at community college were free because I got a BOG waiver (Board of Governors). It's a CA thing, but maybe PA has something similar? They go by your previous year's income; so I had to pay for my first semester. I've worked part time the last two years, and that's made me eligible for a lot of grant money. For the '08-'09 school year, I was awarded $6,500 in grant money, which doesn't have to be paid back.

I worked in the industry nearly 6 years and worked for a total of 6 firms including the ones at which I temped. I met one male legal secretary and 3 or 4 male paralegals.

I would stongly urge you, if you can swing it, to get a degree and consider another field altogether unless you want to go on to law school.

Here's a link to another thread detailing the legal sec profession as I experienced it. Maybe you've read it already.

www.indeed.com/forum/job/legal-secretary/legal-secretary/t51575

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Quintella in San Francisco, California

73 months ago

In response to your comment, I have been a legal secretary for 18 years. I do not have a degree and my salary as of 2004 was $72,000. I am now going to school to complete my BS in Business Management. Are you working at a top-notch law firm, do you have superior skills, do you communicate well, do you have paralegal skills, do you receive bonuses. All these are factors in how much your pay is going to be. I have worked at firms that have given me between $1,500-$4,000 bonuses. I have no problem displaying my skills and letting an attorney and/or an office manager understand my skill level. Over the years I have taken numerous legal training courses. Being a legal secretary is a very stressful job but it is also rewarding if you like the law. You have to be the kind of person that doesn't mind working hard, able to follow detailed instructions without deviating from them, understanding rules, regulations, procedures and processes...basically a person who likes to read and comprehends with very little instructions. Specialized areas like patent prosecution, IP Litigation, and very specialized areas you can demand more money. I have seen patent prosecution jobs in the San Francisco Bay Area starting off at $90,000 with a $5,000 sign on bonus. It solely depends on you.

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dh in Northern CA, California

73 months ago

Quintella in San Francisco, California said: In response to your comment, I have been a legal secretary for 18 years. I do not have a degree and my salary as of 2004 was $72,000. I am now going to school to complete my BS in Business Management. Are you working at a top-notch law firm, do you have superior skills, do you communicate well, do you have paralegal skills, do you receive bonuses. All these are factors in how much your pay is going to be. I have worked at firms that have given me between $1,500-$4,000 bonuses. I have no problem displaying my skills and letting an attorney and/or an office manager understand my skill level. Over the years I have taken numerous legal training courses. Being a legal secretary is a very stressful job but it is also rewarding if you like the law. You have to be the kind of person that doesn't mind working hard, able to follow detailed instructions without deviating from them, understanding rules, regulations, procedures and processes...basically a person who likes to read and comprehends with very little instructions. Specialized areas like patent prosecution, IP Litigation, and very specialized areas you can demand more money. I have seen patent prosecution jobs in the San Francisco Bay Area starting off at $90,000 with a $5,000 sign on bonus. It solely depends on you.

Are you still working as a legal secretary now? Because you give your '04 salary and also the fact that you're now in school completing your BS in Business Management, I have the impression that you are no longer working as a legal secretary and are looking to make a change. If you are planning a career change, do you have any ideas what you want to do? If you plan to remain as a legal secretary, what do you plan to do with the degree?

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Quintella in San Francisco, California

73 months ago

I left off at my salary in 2004 so you can see that legal secretaries do make money. Since I opted to use my real name and it is not common, I decided not to reveal my current salary because it could cause problems with other co-workers who may read this article but it is now higher. I am still working as a legal secretary but not at a law firm. I am working in-house at a biotechnology firm in their legal department because it is less stressful and I can focus on school. Yes. I intend to make a career change to managing a law firm as a legal administrator and/or go into management at the corporation I am currently employed.

I figured with all the experience and various positions I have held at a law firm that I should become a manager. I enjoy what I do for a living and I love the law. I cannot say that for everyone as it takes a very special personality to deal with lawyers.

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Quintella in San Francisco, California

73 months ago

You need to relocate to California. Go to www.craigslist.com and look under "Legal" view the pay for legal secretaries in San Francisco/Bay Area. Of course the cost of living is higher also but you do not have to live in San Francisco you can live on the outskirts.

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dh in Northern CA, California

73 months ago

Quintella in San Francisco, California said: I left off at my salary in 2004 so you can see that legal secretaries do make money....

Legal secretarial pay is decent money ONLY when considering the fact that a degree isn't required. I'm already in California. I made $52.5K (including year-end bonus) in Orange County in '04. I went to Salary.com and did a cost-of-living comparison - what would I need to make in San Fran to maintain the same standard of living? $74,597, according to their cost-of-living wizard. Assuming this thing is accurate, then you and I were roughly in the same boat financially (??) back in '04. At the time, I had 3 years' word processing experience and 1 year litigation experience.

The percentage increase for salaries in San Fran is a lot less than the percentage increase in the cost of living. It says that if I were to take the same type of job with the same type of company, I would earn $57,182.

I returned to my hometown in Northern CA where the COL is much cheaper than OC so that I could afford to work 20 hrs/wk while I finish my degree. I could no longer stand the legal industry. I work as a file clerk/floater. I occasionally communicate with someone in SF who makes $80K, and from what I understand, that doesn't go very far there. Sure, you could live outside and commute in. A lot of people commute to OC from the Inland Empire area. I just don't think a two-hour commute every day is worth it.

You said you have 18 years' experience. According to the 2005 U.S. News and World Report, MBA graduates from UC Davis and UC Irvine start out at an average of $78K and $74K, respectively. Like I said, legal secretarial pay looks good as long as it's not being compared to jobs that require a formal education.

I left my last job in '06 at $55K. I turned down a job that required a lot less responsibility for $59K in '05. The only to keep your salary up with the going rate is to change jobs every few years. Continued...

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dh in Northern CA, California

73 months ago

...Continued.
To answer the questions in your post a few days ago, yes I do have the skills you mentioned-superior communication/organizational skills and a paralegal cert. from UCLA plus outstanding work ethic-I never called in sick or showed up late (I did call in sick when I worked civil lit). I ALWAYS had great year-end reviews. My raises the last 2 years I was in the industry were $2,500 both years, and Xmas bonuses those years were also $2,500. My main reason for leaving the industry wasn't for more money but because I want to have job-a career rather-that I enjoy. I was thoroughly burnt out and sick to death of working with attys. I really do think this is a crappy industry. Company loyalty doesn't pay. Your raises don't keep up with market rate but the firm brings new hirees on board at the going rate; so new secretaries with comparable experience get paid more than the secretaries who've been loyal to their employers several years.
For example, in '05, I was making $52.5K/year to work for two named partners, two associates, plus handle alot of admin crap (billing, banking, A/R). I received an offer for $59K for a word processor/floater position - $6,500 a year more for a job with a lot less responsibility. I turned it down because I was planning my exit from the industry at the time and wanted to focus on that. I left in June, '06, at $55k, still $4,000 less than the offer I turned down the year before. I was hired as a word processor at this job, then they made me a legal secretary. They continued to give me more responsibilities, effectively making my position worth more, but the yearly raises I received didn't reflect that. That is normal practice for a firm. Sometimes I think they do that intentionally. If they advertise the position as a secretary plus the admin stuff, they have to offer a hire salary to get someone to take the job. They wait til you're already on board then increase your responsibilities yet year-end raise doesn't reflect that.

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dh in Northern CA, California

73 months ago

If you are bored to death, I apologize.

Besides the mediocre pay, the atty maltreatment, and the fact that it's pretty dead end, one thing that I hated was that my sole reason for being there was to help the attorney get rich. I worked for attys who owned vacation homes in the mountains or desert, owned rental properties, and took month-long vacations to exotic countries. Yet I wasn't paid enough to afford a small condo. These attys can't accomplish all of that without a legal secretary doing the grunt work. Think about it. What if all the secretaries in the world quit their jobs and the attys were left to type their own docs, answer their own phones, keep their own time, maintain their own files, in addition to legal research, court appearances and depos, not to mention selling themselves to new potential clients? If I continued as a legal secretary, I would never have anything to show for it. My attys, however, would have a lot to show for my hard work. It's the atty who benefits from the atty-secretary relationship.

I'm not someone with that "You-wouldn't-have-what-you-have-without-me" attitude, but life would be hard for an atty if he didn't have a secretary. Often, the atty's attitude toward his secretary isn't one of appreciation but instead, "You owe me."

Being a legal secretary is by far the worst thing I ever did to make a buck. I saw it as a substandard way to spend 8 hours a day. I graduate with my economics degree in May '09 at 42. I will undoubtedly take a paycut-I knew I would even before the economy fell apart. I don't care. In the long run (assuming the economy eventually returns to "normal"), I have a lot more potential for advancement opportunities and making a better salary.

I think I've rambled enough. At least you have the choice to just close the window when you're tired of reading!! I'm tired of typing.

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dh in Northern CA, California

73 months ago

I promise, this is my last post (for now).

I just wanted to provide the link for the salary comparison calculator in case you were curious.

swz.salary.com/costoflivingwizard/layoutscripts/coll_result.asp?presentsalary=52500&presenthomemetrocode=126&presentworkmetrocode=126&newhomemetrocode=156&newworkmetrocode=156&x=34&y=7

CNNmoney.com also has a salary/cost of living comparison.

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Quintella in San Francisco, California

73 months ago

Yes. This is true that you must change jobs to keep up with current salary. Since I have been a legal secretary, I have changed jobs every 2-4 years if not sooner. Of course, I have also had attorneys ask me to go with them to firms they were going to. Again, it all dependns. If you believe that legal secretaries do not make money then may be you shouldn't be doing the job. This is my last response. Take care and good luck with your endeavors.

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Quintella in San Francisco, California

73 months ago

Again, all these things you say are TRUE. However, if that is the way you feel then do something to change it. That is why I decided to go back to school and get my degree in Business Management. Then I will go back to school and get my masters in Human Resources. Yes. You work like a dog, type all day, stressed out and then they really do not appreciate you at all. That is why I am not working at a law firm any more and working in-house legal department. The attorneys in-house do not have to bill hours so there is no pressure. I will make one statement no matter what type of job you do there is going to be some stress, and it is better to make an honest living, work hard that sitting on the street corners begging for money, and paving your through life off the system/government. May be you should take a disability break.

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