Give up the day job

It's not only nurses and cab drivers who work at night. Office staff have joined their ranks.

Mention to anyone that you're a night worker and he'll probably assume you're a security guard, nurse, factory shift worker or mini-cab driver. But in today's round-the-clock employment culture, there's nothing to stop office workers being at their desks from the small hours until dawn. Leading the way are the banks of high-flying legal secretaries who are employed by large law firms. Once the day-time workers have left, the specialist secretaries move in and start to clear the backlog of documents that are needed in all parts of the world by start of business the next day.

Secretarial service units came into being five to 10 years ago as City law firms found they were unable to process the amount of document work during the day. These super secretaries are paid handsome salaries to turn around complex, error-free legal documents at great speed.

Clifford Chance, the international law firm in Aldersgate Street, London, which employs 2,000 lawyers worldwide, has a system in which an early and a late shift operate between 4pm and 4am, with 33 evening secretaries and 19 on the night shift. The move towards late working came in 1987 following a merger which increased the firm's overall workload. With clients in the US, the Middle East, and Asia, 24-hour working is the only method of turning documentation around in time, according to the firm's spokesman, Tom Rose.

"There is absolutely no way in which we would meet our deadlines without night secretaries,' he explains. "The volume of work involved in acquisitions and large transactions means that the paperwork can only get cleared in time by working after hours. With globalised business growing all the time, we are having to employ more staff on this basis."

So who is night-time working suited to? "A number of people," insists Douglas Soper, vice-chairman of the Institute of Legal Secretaries. "It is particularly popular with those returning to work after a long time away from the workplace and with parents who have reasonably grown-up children. They can spend the evening with them and put them to bed. Then, with the other partner at home to look after them, they can go off to work."

It is also ideal for those workers who can be described as "night owls". Dr Elfed Morgan of Birmingham University, who is conducting research into the effects of shift work, says people considering working through the night should first determine whether they are a lark or an owl. Contrary to popular opinion, he claims, this is not usually changeable, not least because it is inherited to some extent. "There is evidence that morning people fare less well on night shifts," he explains. Typically, a night secretary's remit will be to type up court reports, conveyancing papers, sales completions and leases - all requiring accuracy plus specialist knowledge of legal terminology. These super secretaries also require sound IT knowledge since there is seldom access to back-up computer staff through the night.

Night secretaries all agree that they have a more creative, pro-active role than the conventional day-time secretary. "We find we can get through much more work without the distractions of the phone going and people chatting," adds one legal secretary for a corporate City law firm in London. "It can be a treadmill but the hours suit me and the money's good. It also means I can be at home with my child during the day." Having been a daytime secretary, she finds her new role far more interesting. "And the time goes really quickly."

Despite these benefits, claims Mr Soper, there is still a huge shortage of competent legal secretaries, particularly in London. Consequently they are able to demand high fees - night work in this field tends to pay on average about pounds 2,000 more a year than day work.

The high-tech nature of the job means that one branch of a large firm can easily be in touch with another at all hours. Consequently if one branch is overloaded and another is experiencing slack, the surplus can be taken on by another branch via fax or e-mail. The juggling that's needed creates a variety of tasks, from working on contracts to setting up new styles of working. In addition, the secretaries tend to work across departments rather than for one partner.

"With the way this trend is taking off, there seems to be a new career developing, with the demand for a new kind of self-sufficient, pro-active secretary," said Mr Soper. "A number of normal secretaries are now making the transition to becoming document production technicians. But technician is the wrong word - these are responsible and demanding jobs."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Neil Young performs on stage at Hyde Park
musicAnd his Hyde Park set has rhyme and reason, writes Nick Hasted
News
Women have been desperate to possess dimples like Cheryl Cole's
people Cole has secretly married French boyfriend Jean-Bernard Fernandez-Versini after just three months.
Arts and Entertainment
AKB48 perform during one of their daily concerts at Tokyo’s Akihabara theatre
musicJapan's AKB48 are one of the world’s most-successful pop acts
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
News
The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
news
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Extras
indybestThe tastiest creations for children’s parties this summer
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Paolo Nutini performs at T in the Park
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Sales Executive - Central London /Home working - £20K-£40K

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Sales Executive - Ce...

HR Advisor - 6 months FTC Wimbledon, SW London

£35000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - 6 Months Fix...

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
In pictures: Breathtaking results of this weekend's 'supermoon'

Weekend's 'supermoon' in pictures

The moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor