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Working As General Law-Related Office Staff

published May 22, 2013

By Author - LawCrossing
Published By
( 4 votes, average: 3.3 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.
Most firms of solicitors have a general office with staff consisting of messengers and clerks, whose job it is to collect and deliver papers, distribute incoming post, and collect up and frank outgoing mail. Sometimes the 'general office' is in charge of the firm's photocopying, and sometimes these staff act as receptionists as well. As a school-leaver, you could start in a general office without any very clear idea of what you want to do, or what alternatives are available to you, but having found your feet you might wish to move into other areas.

Outdoor Clerks

In England and Wales and Northern Ireland, when solicitors tell clients they have issued a writ or taken out a summons, what they usually mean is that they have filled out the correct forms and handed them to the outdoor clerk who goes to the court and ensures that any necessary fees are paid and that the documents are stamped by the court. The outdoor clerk also lodges papers in court before hearings and obtains dates for court appointments. Sometimes applications for a hearing are simply put on a list and allocated a date by the court later, and in those cases it is up to the outdoor clerk to keep a check on the court lists and notify the solicitor when a hearing date is given. As an outdoor clerk becomes more experienced, he or she may also be asked to attend court on simple procedural applications. As an outdoor clerk, you would be out of the office most days of the week and would quickly learn both office and court procedure.

Outdoor clerks are often given their own files to work on. Very often they start off" with debt collection matters, in which their knowledge of court procedure, and particularly of how judgments are enforced, is very useful. Some end up as managing clerks or go on to qualify as legal executives or solicitors, but others prefer to remain as outdoor clerks throughout their careers

There are no particular academic qualifications required, although you will need to be physically fit, have a good standard of spoken English, and be able to communicate well. Small firms may not employ an outdoor clerk and instead may ask a messenger to do the necessary work. However, most large firms that take on litigation work will produce enough court work to need an outdoor clerk. Salaries start from about ^6,000. In Scotland most large firms employ messengers, but seldom employ outdoor clerks as those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland do.

Clerical Staff

All firms have staff dealing with their accounting, and the size of the department will depend on the size of the firm. Some firms employ only one qualified accountant, while others have enough work to warrant taking on half-a-dozen school-leavers, as well as a number of qualified staff. Many firms now have computerized accounting systems, and you would have to be prepared to learn how to operate them, if necessary. Ilex Tutorial Services has introduced a legal accountancy course and exams in legal accountancy are held by the Institute of Legal Executives twice a year. Full details are available from the Institute.

Case Study 1:

Brenda works as a credit controller in a solicitors' office.

"I have worked as a credit controller for 15 years. The first job I had was for a printing company. From there, I moved to a glass and glazing company, then on to a solicitors' office. This shows that as a credit controller, the main aim is to collect monies owed to the company - regard-less of the product or service offered.

I would say the only difference working for a solicitors' office is that the accounting system differs slightly from that in the commercial sector, in that solicitors have a 'disbursement' account system from which they pay out funds on behalf of their clients and this amount is then included on the fee note eventually rendered.

As a credit controller, you always feel the need to get the bill paid. However, in the case of a house sale for instance, one may be told to hold the chasing pending the sale. Also, a fee earner dealing with pro-bate matters for the firm often has to wait for money while the will goes through probate to allow access to the cleared funds and then to pay the bill.

To be a credit controller, you need to be computer literate, have a good working knowledge of accounts and a good telephone manner and to be able to work with and talk to people at the highest level in any company. Communication with clients is an everyday part of the job and there is a fine balance when talking to people; to always project the correct manner and deal with any difficulties they may have. While listening to their financial problems, at the same time you must also let them know the work has been done and we do expect to be paid. So the object is to collect payments, keep the clients happy and also the solicitor who originally raised the bill."

Case Study 2:

Julie works as a credit control assistant in a solicitors' office.

"I have worked for a solicitors' firm since the age of 17, starting as an office junior. My duties included photocopying, filing, relief switchboard, reception duties, deliveries, opening and franking daily mail, shredding documents and making myself generally useful around the office.

After two years I was moved to the firm's head office where my duties altered and I was given the position of junior typist/assistant receptionist taking the overflow of telephone calls from reception at my desk. I progressed from being an assistant receptionist to the Head Office receptionist within a few months and kept this position for near-ly ten years. Starting out as an office junior, I feel, gave me a very good grounding for the subsequent position as Head Office receptionist, as it enabled me to gain an insight into the workings of the office from the ground up.

Working on reception, I acquired the crucial ability to deal and communicate with people at all levels - both clients and solicitors. I learned the importance of being diplomatic, for instance, when reassuring clients that solicitors would return calls and when solicitors made it clear that they did not want their work constantly to be interrupted by the telephone!

After ten years as a receptionist, I felt the need to widen my horizons and I subsequently applied to be moved to an administrative post. The practice manager offered me a position as his assistant/credit control assistant, which I found very challenging and enjoyable. My duties range from updating the internal and personnel records, inputting data on the computer and generally handling various enquiries. I am on hand for messages, telephone calls and any queries the practice manager may pass my way."

published May 22, 2013

By Author - LawCrossing
( 4 votes, average: 3.3 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.