Vital contributions: the roles of Legal Secretaries and PAs

We spoke to Emma Stacey, the Chief Executive of the Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs (ILSPA), about the vital role of legal secretaries and PAs in law, as well as the opportunities provided by ILSPA. 

  • Last updated Aug 28, 2019 5:40:52 PM
  • Becky Kells, Editor, AllAboutLaw

Would you be able to describe briefly how you became the Chief Executive of ILSPA, including your own experience as a legal secretary?

I became ILSPA’s Chief Executive in 2004 after being given a fantastic opportunity to take over the Institute. I was working as a manager for The National Association of Paralegals at the time and I had a lot of experience in dealing with the training needs for Paralegals and helping NALP’s Members. The most interesting aspect of being involved with NALP was administering their Legal Secretary courses so it felt like the perfect progression to move on to ILSPA and be involved with a company which solely focused on Legal Secretaries and their career development. During my time at NALP, I had an evening job as a Legal Secretary at Bevan Ashford. I gained valuable experience of working within a busy legal team and learnt how law firms operate.

Legal secretaries and PAs occupy a very important space within law office culture. What are the main reasons you feel that the professions should be celebrated and illuminated?

Legal Secretaries and PAs provide support to lawyers and are an integral part of a team of legal professionals. Due to the nature of their work, they need to be highly qualified or experienced in order to deliver a high-quality service to their firms and their clients. Many skills are needed for the role, such as a sound knowledge of the law and legal procedure, a high level of accuracy, attention to detail, excellent organisation and communication skills, as well as a good understanding of technology. So, Legal Secretaries and PAs should feel very proud of the vital contribution they make to their firms. We provide a very positive ethos for our Students and Members and help them to recognise their worth.

How do you think that courses, such as those implemented by ILSPA, have changed the way people access careers as legal secretaries and legal PAs?

ILSPA’s courses have evolved greatly since we initially started providing them. Due to the advancement of technology, Students are able to study online which is very beneficial for those who cannot attend classes. Our courses are available to Students from a wide variety of backgrounds – for those who have no previous experience in law, those who have a law degree who want to gain practical skills and those who are experienced wanting a formal qualification. Our Students range between 17- 60 years old and live in the UK as well as overseas. The content of our courses is very comprehensive, providing Students with legal knowledge as well as the practical skills involved with Legal Secretary work, with the benefit of being widely recognised by law firms and legal recruiters. This means that being a successful Legal Secretary or PA is an accessible option to people, whatever stage they are at in their career or wherever they live in the world.

What characteristics do you feel are important for anyone hoping to become a legal secretary or PA?

You need to have a positive attitude in order to succeed in having a career as a Legal Secretary or PA. You must have confidence in your abilities and worth, and make sure that this comes across when attending interviews. Employers will be looking for someone who communicates clearly, is professional in persona and appearance, is respectful and dedicated, and is genuinely interested in the role and the firm. Your CV can make a great impression on an employer, but how you perform in an interview will be the deciding factor. When interviewing candidates for roles at ILSPA, I have always been most impressed by those who are positive, professional, genuine and clear in their responses. These qualities shine through and should naturally continue within the role.

For a young person looking to start a career as a legal secretary, what would be your main advice?

I recommend that you do as much research as possible about your chosen career path. Find out exactly which skills are required and train for the role. ILSPA’s Legal Secretaries Diploma course is perfect for beginners and helps people to secure employment as it is widely recognised in the legal industry. Training to become a Legal Secretary ensures that you acquire the necessary skills, gain a recognised qualification and shows employers that you are serious about having a Legal Secretary career. We provide career guidance to people every step of the way so if you are interested in becoming a Legal Secretary, please do not hesitate to contact us for advice. ILSPA is the go-to place for trainee and experienced Legal Secretaries.

To find out more about ILSPA, head over to

More like this

  • Diversity & inclusion at Osborne ClarkeArticle contributed by Osborne Clarke

    Diversity & inclusion is becoming ever more important at law firms, and Osborne Clarke is no exception. We caught up with them to find out what’s in place at the firm.

  • RPC’s role in the diversity & inclusion spaceArticle contributed by RPC

    We spoke to Ellinor Davey, Early Talent Lead, and Rachel Pears, Inclusion & Diversity Lead, about the diversity and inclusion initiatives at law firm RPC.

  • Interview: Jonathan Turnbull, IP partner in the litigation practice at Herbert Smith Freehills Article contributed by Herbert Smith Freehills

    Interested in going down the IP route, or practising in litigation? Johnathan Turnbull is a partner at Herbert Smith Freehills with experience that spans both of these areas. Here’s what he has to say about his career.

  • “The firm appreciates you for you” - Life at AshfordsQuestions by Becky Kells

    Are you curious about life at national law firm Ashfords? We spoke to a partner, associate and trainee at the firm to find out what the firm is like, from preparing to qualify right up to making partner.

  • “Osborne Clarke doesn't expect anyone to be a robot—personality and passion are encouraged”Article contributed by Osborne Clarke

    What’s it like to do a training contract at Osborne Clarke? Three aspiring solicitors shared their experiences with us.

Recruiting? We can help