These days, the role of a paralegal encompasses many more related fields than it did decades ago that go beyond the law firm. So it’s essential to possess the skills and characteristics that will make you stand out amongst all others at the most prestigious law firms. So what makes a good paralegal?
While most employers look for traits such as integrity, responsibility, confidence, and vision, law firms are looking for the right combination of something more that says not only are you great for the corporate world, but you are fantastic for our firm. Having excellent communication and writing skills as well as being well-organized and detail-oriented are a few of the traits a prospective firm will be evaluating when they meet with you. After all, you will be the one to prepare all the evidence for court, coordinate all the witnesses, and research all the information needed for the case. Let’s take a closer look at what an attorney will look for when hiring a paralegal.
Skills That Make a Paralegal Great
There are many skills you could acquire to become a good paralegal. For instance, being highly proficient in research is a must. You will be taking the lead when it comes to getting ready for trial, and you need to know where to find the information necessary to win the case. If you are a wiz at investigating and detective work and love the thrill of finding information, then having excellent research skills will serve you well.
It is also crucial to be a highly organized person. The volume of work that will be coming across your desk on a daily basis is tremendous, and you need to be able to locate each piece of information at the drop of a hat.
Also, you will be handling numerous documents that will need to be accurately sorted and filed, so they can be found when needed. Being self-sufficient and well organized will ensure the law firm you work for runs smoothly, and the attorney will value you as an employee.
As a paralegal, you will be interacting with many different people throughout the day. You will need to have excellent communication skills as you interview clients, oversee business meetings, and support the attorneys and staff in the firm. As high-pressured as the legal profession can be, you want to be clear and concise in your speech and explain yourself well to avoid confusion.
You will also need to have strong business and legal writing skills. Being a strong writer is a must, and you want to be sure you are well-versed in legal terms so you can read and write documents appropriately.
Computer Software Knowledge
Most people working in the corporate world are familiar with Microsoft Office and Google Workspace. However, as technology advances, more and more programs are being developed that are specific to the profession. This is also true for paralegals.
As a paralegal in this day and age, you will want to be familiar with the legal software used by law firms today as well as how to use the different systems that you need to do to fulfill your duties. Things like online court filing systems and electronic document management systems, to name a few.
8 Software Solutions for Paralegals
- LexisNexis – a cloud-based research database where you can find information regarding case law and other legal topics.
- LegalEdge – a cloud-based case management program for criminal defenders. It also provides access to integrate into police and court information systems, saving you valuable research time.
- Time Matters – a customizable practice management software program.
- Slack – though it’s not specific to paralegals, it is a software platform for file-swapping, real-time chat, and file-sharing. It is a great way to communicate with your team all in one place.
- HoudiniEsq – this management software simplifies your work by being able to integrate with almost any other program that your firm uses. It can draw information from Google Docs, Outlook, Exchange, Office, Gmail, Dropbox, and many more, and simplify your work by integrating all information obtained across all platforms.
- JurisDOC – a dedicated document management software that can handle document assembly automation as well as creating and filling in legal documents. This last feature makes it stand out above all other document management programs.
- Clio – another cloud-based practice management software package that is known for its ease of use.
- Bill4Time – a dedicated software package used to track time and generate invoices. The program is available on the mobile app or a computer. You just click the timer icon and choose the project you’re working on for that specific time period.
What Characteristics Should a Good Paralegal Possess?
Aside from the list of skills above, there are several personality traits that, if you possess them, can make you not just a “good” paralegal but an “excellent” one.
An Excellent Listener
Being a good listener involves not only listening to what is said but also what is not being expressed. This is especially true when sitting in on meetings between the attorney and client. A good paralegal will pick up on things that the attorney may have missed. Being aware of what the attorney is saying or asking of you as well as what the client is saying and not saying through nonverbal cues, will make you invaluable to the firm.
Some people have something ingrained, possibly from early life experiences, that enables them to make wise decisions.
Having good judgment means you don’t make decisions until you completely understand what is going on. Then, when you make a decision, it’s usually a good one. You’ve given careful attention to every detail before forming your conclusion.
Thus, an excellent paralegal fully understands a problem or situation before deciding whether or not to move forward with an action. They don’t just rush into things. They take time and give careful thought, weighing all the obstacles first before deciding the best course of action for the client and the firm.
A great paralegal has the ability to read people. This can be valuable when interacting with clients, judges, and attorneys.
An intuitive person can add insight to the case that the attorney may miss. They also may be able to anticipate something the attorney will need in the future and have it readily available should the attorney request it later on.
Passion for Law
If studying the law excites you, if conducting thorough investigations and researching every angle keeps your adrenaline going, you may just have what it takes to be an excellent paralegal. Whatever you are passionate about will make you great!
Originality, Imagination, and Resourcefulness
A great paralegal will always be thinking ahead. You will strive to be one step ahead of the attorney on the case – looking at all angles, anticipating what will be needed next, and then getting it.
A great paralegal is never on the defense, jumping to fill the demands as they are assigned. A great paralegal knows how to tackle the problem head-on before the attorney tells you to do so. You see a need, know how to assert yourself, and get right to it.
A paralegal deals with a lot of stressed people. The attorneys who are overworked, the clients who are stressed about their legal situation, and the general pressure of deadlines alone can break you if you don’t have patience.
It is a given that under the specific circumstances of your profession, you will always be dealing with difficult people who are stressed from the situations they are facing. It can be very easy to get so overwhelmed that you want to explode. But if you have a patient and quiet demeanor, you will excel in this profession.
Being able to remain calm in the storm and still do your job efficiently and effectively is a gift.
So, with that said, after reading over the above checklist, what do you think? Do you have what it takes to be a great paralegal?
If so, then it’s time to jump on the bandwagon and get the training you need to pursue the career of your dreams!
Alexandra Christensen is a freelance writer and editor. When she is not working on an assignment, she can be found hanging around with other writers on Medium.com/@alexandra_creates where she writes mostly about raising foster and adopted kids and those with invisible disabilities.