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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 someone who enjoys 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. If this type of exhilarating work environment sounds appealing to you, take a look at how to become a legal editor.

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 original 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.

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 also 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, SEO, meta-strategy development, keyword research, and online content management systems. Staying current with case law and legal terminology will also be beneficial to produce compelling content across the many legal writing platforms.

Legal Editor Salary

According to the BLS, the median annual salary for an editor was $59,480 in 2018, while PayScale shows that the average annual salary is $69,108 at the time of writing. Pay can vary depending on specific job responsibilities and geography. Payscale states that legal editors can earn upwards of $81,000 annually.

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? There are currently over 127,000 editors in the U.S., and with nearly one million practicing lawyers, the growing ranks of paralegals, secretaries and other legal professionals will help develop new and diverse publications to cater to this expanding legal audience. As web-based publications grow, the demand for writers with web experience and the ability to write for interactive media is also predicted to increase.

Learn More About Becoming a Legal Editor

If you love reading, proofing, copy editing, and contributing to meaningful publications, a legal editing career may be a good fit. You can find excellent career opportunities at law firms and legal organizations with a need to share and publish information. Take a look at Maryville’s online BA in English program to learn more about becoming a legal editor and jump-starting your career.

Sources:
Balance Careers, “Legal Writing and Editing”
Maryville University, Online Bachelor of Arts in English
PayScale, Average Legal Editor Salary
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Editor
ZipRecruiter, What Are the Qualifications to Become a Legal Editor?