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Defining Legal Staff Jobs

published August 03, 2004

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( 36 votes, average: 4.4 out of 5)
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Just what does our umbrella term of "legal staff" cover? It can mean pretty much anything that a professional can do inside a law firm other than practicing law. Below, find job descriptions to some of the more common jobs found at law firms and in house legal departments.

If anything piques your interest, try a free job search. We have countless jobs in each of these categories in our legal staff-specific database.


Experienced paralegal assistance is critical to the success of any law firm. We are dedicated to assisting our clients in their efforts to find and evaluate those legal professionals who exemplify talent and dedication and will deftly handle matters that require a keen intelligence, yet need not be billed to the client at attorney rates. With the shifts in the economy and the resulting client dissatisfaction with paying high attorney billing rates, the use of paralegals in the law firm has been forecasted to increase significantly in this decade. While availability of schools for paralegals has grown to meet this expected need, it is high-quality experience in a demanding legal environment that makes a paralegal most marketable to the best firms.

Legal Secretaries

While any good legal secretary knows that it is they who truly make things happen in a firm, many attorneys do not understand how valuable a highly-skilled secretary can be for their practice. Every great legal secretary has a counterpart - a colleague who treats his or her position as though it were nothing more than a means of earning a salary. They answer the phone in a monotone, file papers haphazardly, and halfheartedly transcribe scribbles from the attorneys they are assigned to help. But the true stars? They go the extra distance. They know the clients by name, they ensure that they understand the documents involved in a transaction or a trial, they take their place as a full-fledged team member of any project to which they are assigned. Our job in recruiting and placing legal secretaries is to find those stars - legal secretaries who thrive on being an integral part of a winning legal team - and to place them with attorneys that can use (and appreciate) their help. Our clients tell us every day how happy they are that we made the effort to discover their particular skills and match those skills to the right opportunity.

Administrative Officers

The chief administrative officer (CAO) of a law firm serves as the nucleus of the business activity of the firm. At the largest and most successful firms in the United States, the CAO is often more business savvy than any other person in the firm, even (sometimes especially) including the firm's partners. Attorneys in the most prestigious firms recognize this and reward highly qualified administrative officers accordingly. Whereas CAOs historically were recruited up from the ranks within a law firm, there is an increasing trend to bring in new talent from outside the firm in order to provide a "fresh perspective." This is the point at which we become involved, as many of these top firms call upon us to find that unique individual capable of functioning as the firm's "nerve center."

Chief Financial Officers

With firm revenues peaking as high as $1 billion annually, it stands to reason that savvy financial management is critical. Firms deploy their assets in hedging transactions, foreign currency swaps, and numerous other complex market strategies on a daily basis. Law firm chief financial officers (CFOs) earn salaries in the high six figures, making them monetarily competitive with some of Wall Street's top investment bankers.

The successful CFO of a large law firm will have extensive experience overseeing international operations, financial consolidations, and identifying and mitigating foreign exchange risk, be intimately familiar with the process of acquisition, including valuation, due diligence, and integration. On a day-to-day basis, the CFO will plan, direct and control overall financial planning, accounting, forecasting, and cash management functions of the firm, handle the annual budgets and forecasting, evaluate the firm's practices and analyze cost, budgets, operating policies, trends and increased profit opportunities, and protect the firm's financial stability by ensuring that internal controls are adequate to safeguard assets and accounting systems are sufficient to generate accurate and timely financial reporting. With an eye to the firm's future, the CFO must possess strong skills in business planning, analyzing growth opportunities, and valuing potential acquisitions.

Since lawyers have worked long and hard on their own education, they prefer a CFO who has also obtained an advanced degree, such as an MBA, and being a CPA is extraordinarily helpful. If you are a sharp, educated financial professional who can manage the financial organization of multi-office, multi-national firms, and have the vision and the stamina to take our clients forward in their future growth, please contact us.


The controller assists the firm's CFO in day-to-day transactions involving firm payables, receivables, and general accounting: payroll, time and billing, financial reporting, cash management (such as AP/AR control, and maintaining relationships with the firm's banks), and be an integral advisor to the administrative management team, ensuring that decisions are made with full information and awareness of the bottom line. A top-notch law firm controller will be able to create financial management processes that work in a professional services environment, and display impeccable characteristics: a high-energy person with a strong executive presence, who can roll-up his/her sleeves and get the job done. As with any other position of strength within a law firm, the successful applicant will hold an MBA and/or a CPA degree, and have strong computer skills.

Human Resources Managers

The best law firm HR managers are dynamic "people persons" who can multitask like no other, as the duties are many: managing the secretarial staff, handling non-legal staff recruiting, overseeing and conducting new employee orientations, handling employee relations issues, administering and communication of the benefit plans of the firm, managing the compensation system and coordinating the annual performance evaluation process, developing training initiatives for the staff, and overseeing maintenance of the firm's HR databases. This person will have responsibility for handling sensitive issues of employee relations within the firm, recruiting from outside, and supervising and training a staff to be able to respond to the needs of some of the most demanding employees there are. The HR manager should be as well-versed in Federal and local labor and employment law as the firm's Labor attorneys are, since decisions often need to be made quickly, without time to get an opinion from an attorney.

Recruiting Coordinators

From the outset, it must be understood that a recruiting coordinator at a law firm spends a lot of time on the phone, and generally undertakes significant travel responsibilities. If you aren't prepared to spend 50% or more of your time talking to candidates and hiring partners, spend much of your summer organizing and attending summer associate events, be away much of the fall season on law-school recruiting junkets, and give up many nights and weekends in between for various seminars, cocktail parties, and other networking events, then this is not the ideal career for you. On the other hand, if all of that sounds like fun, and you possess strong communication skills, the ability to listen effectively, and relish the idea of convincing exceptional law students that your firm is the only logical choice for them, then you are on the right track and should contact us to discuss our client firms' needs.

Unlike recruiters at agencies and in-house recruiters in many other industries, the law firm recruiting coordinator needn't spend any time cold-calling candidates. The legal job market is such that prospective hires will generally be beating down the door with their resumes, and the recruiting coordinator must be able to efficiently discern those who have merit and pass only those resumes along to the Hiring Committee.


The receptionist is, quite literally, the front line of a firm's public relations campaign and has the ability to make or break the firm's image during that crucial initial telephone or walk-in contact. A top-flight law firm receptionist possesses the same skill set and performs largely the same duties as do receptionists in most other industries, and are similarly as difficult to find. A star receptionist must be able to do more than regurgitate a string of last names followed by the ubiquitous "Hold, please," or "I'll put you through," (or worse, simply transferring without acknowledgment!) followed by punching a button and turning back to a book/magazine/computer game. In order to present the firm in the best light requires the skill of a stage actor in enunciation and diction, the composure of a tightrope walker, and the patience of a saint! The firms with which we work are in constant need of these elusive star receptionists. If you are a "people person" with ambassador-like diplomacy who takes pride in making a good impression, we would be delighted to hear from you (but please - don't put us on hold!).


Nearly every firm could use skilled library personnel, even those with smaller collections. Our clients constantly need librarians experienced with the numerous treatises, case reporters, and information binders that are the staples of legal research, as well as being extremely well versed in and comfortable with the paperless media that are swiftly replacing the more traditional information mining methods. Our clients are willing to pay top salaries to knowledgeable law librarians with information science backgrounds and generally afford them the opportunity to do much more than replace binder pages with update sheets and toss out old pocket parts. Law librarians in the 21st century need to be on top of the latest in legal computing technology. The need to migrate vast amounts of data in most large firms into a management system that permits its full exploitation has driven an increasing search for skilled library scientists. If you are the sort of person who relishes the challenge of administrating a dynamic information system and has interest in managing the design and build of efficient systems for the cataloging and retrieval of the vast array of integral firm information, we generally have opportunities for you.

Information Technology Managers and Assistants

While attorneys typically do not push the limits of their individual workstation capacity, no type of organization relies more on the persons responsible for keeping its computing technology in shape than law firms. With hundreds of attorneys producing dozens of documents each day, and an increasing reliance on email technology, there is never a dull moment in any firm for its information technology managers and their assistants. Unlike traditional career paths, a career in information technology management in a law firm offers better pay and a faster rise to the top of the IT ranks within a large organization.

Find all legal staff job openings on LawCrossing.

published August 03, 2004

( 36 votes, average: 4.4 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.