For Legal Secretaries

What’s at Stake? 

Your Firm’s High Reputation

Because of a nail, the shoe was lost. Because of the shoe, the horse was lost. Because of the horse, the rider was lost. Because of the rider, the battle was lost.

That old rhyme about the importance of small things rings especially true for the legal profession. You take pride in the high quality and accuracy of your firm’s legal work.   

But what if the documentation in which you deliver it is marred with typographical errors, misspelled names, grammatical flaws, inconsistent style?

The result:  In the mind of client and court, the credibility and reliability of that legal work suffers – sometimes badly.   

In short, small errors in grammar, spelling and style can cost dearly and hit your bottom line. 

The Solution

The high cost of such errors is why leading law firms like Akin Gump and legal departments like that at the World Bank’s IFC have chosen to give their legal secretarial staff special training to refresh their skills. Their choice:

Secrets  to Powerful Proofing and Copyediting

Why the Training Need?

Legal secretaries should be, by definition, pros in proofing and in the ins and outs of grammar, usage and style.

But just as airline pilots who are experts in their field must still attend refresher training yearly, so too legal secretaries need to refresh their skills – on which the image of the firm depends.

“I learned a lot” has been a common response from legal secretaries with decades of experience who have attended this training.

“And you made grammar fun!” has been another common response.  We build in the fun deliberately, because people learn better and retain that learning better when it’s delivered with a bit of fun.

What Participants Will Learn

The seminar, which runs half a day, has two major parts: 

Part I: Comprehensive Rules Refresher

This module takes participants through a series of learning challenges – excerpts from legal documents where a rule of grammar, punctuation, usage or style is at issue. 

In this real-world context, participants find the error, discuss or (in many cases) argue over it, and through this dialogue, we review the rule in question.

The Comprehensive Review: The module systematically but engagingly reviews the rules for the most common, real-world questions that arise in dealing with:

  • Commas
  • Apostrophes
  • Quotation Marks
  • Hyphens
  • Capital Letters
  • Numbers
  • Publication Names
  • Grammatical Agreement
  • Punctuating Vertical Lists
  • Usage

Role of Style Guides: Also at issue in many cases may be whether the rule in question is fundamental and indisputable or a matter of “style.”  For the latter, we address the range of style guides (AP, Chicago, MLA, Gregg, etc.).

If your firm has an established style guide, we customize the rule discovery to adhere to your style guide.

If your firm has no in-house style guide but follows a specific professional style guide, we adhere to that style guide.

If your lawyers are free to choose their own styles for grammar, punctuation and usage, we advise participants in creating “ad hoc” style guides of their own for each lawyer that they support, based on the lawyer’s preferences

A Firm-Wide Standard: An important value achieved by this module is in setting firm-wide agreed practices on issues of grammar, punctuation, usage and style.

This is important, as both client and court look, even if unconsciously, for consistencies in these matters first within a given document and then across the range of documents submitted by your firm.

Part II: Seven Steps to Powerful Proofing

This module codifies the common proofing steps we have found that the most effective and most experienced legal secretaries apply when they proof.

Its value is in providing a systematic seven-step method to go through the proofing process, which must often be done under high pressure and short deadlines. 

New and less experienced secretaries find this module particularly useful, as it is based on the proven practices of pros in the field.  But even the pros find useful new tips that they adopt to sharpen their proofing power.

In addition to the seven-step method, we also provide a segment we call The “Physics” of  Proofing This supplements the seven-step system with practical tips – again drawn from legal-secretary pros – in training the eye to spot errors

Laminated Takeaway Card: At the end of the course, participants receive a nifty take-away card that distills The Seven Steps of Powerful Proofing as well as The “Physics” of Proofing. 

This functions as an effective tool to remind and encourage participants to apply the new learning everyday back on the job.

Combine this training with writing skills training for paralegals and firm business managers.

In tandem with Secrets to Powerful Copyediting and Proofing for legal secretarial staff, we offer Ten Secrets to Powerful Writing, a companion training course for paralegals and firm business managers.   

This workshop hones in on ten principles that make the biggest difference in producing writing that is consistently clear, concise, coherent and cogent.  It takes participants through a discovery process that revolutionizes the way they approach writing on the job.  

They come away with ten precise and practical principles that they can apply immediately and effectively to any and all documents they write – whether they be e-mails, memos, letters or substantial reports or proposals.

Akin Gump chose Ten Secrets to Powerful Writing for all its paralegals and firm business managers and scheduled the training in tandem with the secretarial training.

“It’s hard to present training sessions in which every person learns something new, but the Whelan Group pulled it off each time with great results. Our staff, who consistently have very high expectations, gave the learning experience an abundance of ‘outstanding’ and ‘excellent’ ratings.”

—Julie Stumpe Dressing
Chief HR Officer & HR Counsel
Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP

Return to All Whelan Group Seminars