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Writing the Letter of the Law: How to Become a Legal Editor

If you’re detail-oriented, a strong communicator, and enjoy the law, a career as a legal editor may be for you. Legal editors provide the all-important last set of eyes before a legal publication becomes final. These legal publications usually originate with law firms or larger legal organizations and can take many forms, including magazines, websites, and even legal blogs (or “blawgs”). To become a legal editor, you must be able to think analytically and offer vital feedback to others.

Like other types of editors, legal editors must enjoy working under pressure to meet tight deadlines. Individuals interested in working in this type of exhilarating environment are likely to find that completing a bachelor’s degree program in a related field, such as Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Arts in English program, can help prepare them.

Legal editor works on his legal blog at a coffee shop.

What Does a Legal Editor Do?

A legal editor does the copy editing, content editing, and proofreading for an organization’s publications. The role is responsible for ensuring that written documents comply with the organization’s standards.

In legal editing in particular, the editor must have strong attention to detail and must fact-check all dates and statistics to ensure their accuracy. Before publishing a document, the legal editor will flag inaccuracies and either return it to the writer for revisions or rewrite the section themselves.

Legal editors also make big-picture decisions about the overall themes, creative directions, and formatting styles that work best. Some legal editors are even in charge of managing law firms’ social media accounts.

What Does a Legal Editor Do?

A legal editor does the copy editing, content editing, and proofreading for an organization’s publications. The role is responsible for ensuring that written documents comply with the organization’s standards.

In legal editing in particular, the editor must have strong attention to detail and must fact-check all dates and statistics to ensure their accuracy. Before publishing a document, the legal editor will flag inaccuracies and either return it to the writer for revisions or rewrite the section themselves.

Legal editors also make big-picture decisions about the overall themes, creative directions, and formatting styles that work best. Some legal editors are even in charge of managing law firms’ social media accounts.

Legal Editor Careers

Individuals who pursue this career path can find employment in a variety of industries, such as law firms, legal publications, and websites.

Law Firms

Legal editors employed with law firms proofread and review legal documents and briefs to ensure they are accurate and free of spelling and grammatical errors. In some cases, they may be asked to translate “legalese” from complex statutes into easy-to-understand language.

Legal Publications

Editors employed at legal publications gather and analyze legal news. Other tasks may include proofreading and editing content for publication, conducting legal research, and checking citations for accuracy.

Websites

Website legal editors edit content for relevance and accuracy. They write articles and editorials as required, perform legal research, and manage full-time and freelance writing staff. Professionals who find employment with legal websites provide support to writers and ensure on-time content delivery.

Steps to Become a Legal Editor

Legal editors are crucial members of any legal team. If a legal editor’s versatile, fast-paced work environment sounds like a good fit for you, here are the steps you’ll need to take to become a legal editor.

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

Before you can become a legal editor, you’ll need to earn a bachelor’s degree in a subject like English that can help you improve your writing and communication skills. An online BA in English from Maryville University can help you develop a strong attention to detail, which is a key characteristic of a good legal editor.

Gain Relevant Experience

In addition to a degree, it’s usually a good idea to have some writing experience. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) suggests that someone talented at identifying good stories or who enjoys working with writers may find an editing career like legal editing worth pursuing.

Continue Building Your Skills

The BLS stresses that editors need to have creativity, attention to detail, good judgment, interpersonal skills, research skills, and good writing skills. Legal editors for web publications and blogs should be familiar with HTML, search engine optimization (SEO), meta-strategy development, keyword research, and online content management systems. Staying current with case law and legal terminology will also be beneficial to producing compelling content across the many legal writing platforms.

Legal Editor Salary

The BLS reports that in May 2019, editors with salaries in the lowest 10% of the range earned less than $32,620, while the median salary for editors was $61,370. Editors in the top 10% range earned more than $122,280. Pay can vary depending on the industry in which an individual is employed, their years of experience, education level, and where the position is located.

While most legal editors work full time and earn annual salaries, some part-time editors receive hourly wages equivalent to the salary they’d receive if they were full-time employees.

Employment Outlook for Legal Editor

What does the future of legal editing look like? As of 2019, more than 118,500 editors were employed throughout the U.S., according to the BLS. With nearly 1 million practicing lawyers in the country, the ranks of paralegals, secretaries, and other legal professionals will likely continue to grow, leading to the development of new and diverse publications to cater to this expanding legal audience.

As the number of web-based publications grows, the demand for writers with web experience and the ability to write for interactive media is also predicted to increase. According to the BLS, editors who are comfortable working with various digital and electronic tools and who have adapted to online media are likely to have the best job prospects.

Your Path Toward Becoming a Legal Editor Starts at Maryville

If you love reading, proofing, copy editing, and contributing to meaningful publications, a legal editing career may be a good fit for you. You can find excellent career opportunities at law firms and legal organizations with a need to share and publish information. Discover how Maryville’s online Bachelor of Arts in English can prepare you for a career as a legal editor.

Recommended Reading

The Art of Writing: Editor vs. Author

Copywriter vs. Copy Editor: What’s the Difference?

The Writer’s Online Toolkit

Sources

Balance Careers, “Legal Writing and Editing”

PayScale, Average Legal Editor Salary

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Editors

ZipRecruiter, What Are the Qualifications to Become a Legal Editor?