7 Skills Essential to Becoming a Great Paralegal

Paralegal skillsWho wants to be good when you can be great. You have the credentials and the legal knowledge as a paralegal, and you are ready to make your mark.

As a paralegal, you are a vital member of a team. An attorney is dependent on you to do his job well. In order to stand out, maybe you’ve taken extra education to specialize in an area of law. Now you are ready to focus on the skills that will make you indispensable as a paralegal.

1. Organization

No surprise here — working with the law makes being organized an absolute necessity. A law office is busy. Paralegals work with multiple cases, clients, files, research, filings, appointments, and deadlines. Keeping it all straight is a big task.

It takes time to build the systems to keep files, calendars and deadlines in order, but your boss will appreciate the effort. Make it your goal to have what your attorney needs prepared and ready before they even know they need it.

You will also need to prioritize your time and resources. There are client needs and deadlines to be met. You will decide how best to get it all done.

2. Communication

Communication skills are necessary in all offices. Law offices that are dealing with multiple cases and clients have a lot of information being exchanged. As a paralegal, you will not only be collecting and organizing this information, you will be researching, accumulating, using, preparing and sending it out to your clients, attorneys and the court.

You will deal with a variety of communication needs. Professionalism is always necessary. There will be meetings and interviews with clients that may require an understanding ear as well as the ability to get the information needed.

There will be testimony and discovery where getting the details is your focus. You will also be accumulating, organizing and preparing documentation. Attorneys will rely on you to know what, who and how to communicate information with clarity and detail. Adaptability and the ability to multi-task will be part of every day.

3. Attention to Detail

Attention to detail goes right along with organization. Paralegals must dot every “i” and cross every “t”. Accuracy is essential. All documentation must be detailed and complete so that files are correct and organized. Deadlines need to be met with correct and complete information.

Attention to detail includes the ability to anticipate what is going to be needed in any situation. Being able to think ahead and have the answers ready cements your value in a law office. Having someone to count on as another set of eyes and hands will make an attorney’s job that much easier to handle.

4. Writing

The job of a paralegal is writing intensive — case files, pleadings and correspondence to name a few. Excellent writing skills are a must. Writing needs to be clear, concise and accurate.

Proper formatting and grammar should be second nature to you. All documents and correspondence should be professional and polished.

5. ResearchParalegal skills

Research is a major responsibility for a paralegal and requires critical thinking. Not only do you need to be able to find what is needed, but you will need to analyze and apply the information you find.

You will be working with print and electronic sources to locate statutes, regulations, constitutional provisions and court cases. You will need to find the information and then apply it to the situations you are working on.

6. Ethics

Paralegals deal with sensitive information, and being reliable and trustworthy is a necessity for keeping your job, let alone excelling at it. Attorneys need to be able to trust their paralegals implicitly.

Paralegals are not allowed to practice law or give legal advice. You will also be dealing with confidentiality issues and attorney-client privilege, conflicts of interest, claims of misconduct, advertising and solicitation, handling client funds and frivolous claims.

7. Patience

Law offices, as well as corporate legal offices, are fast-paced and stressful. There will be tight deadlines and emergencies that need to be dealt with. There will also be complicated problems that need to be worked through. Staying calm, clear and steady are skills that can set you apart.

Have the patience to wade through the storms and work through the issues that come up. The job of a paralegal is challenging and takes many skills. Pay attention to the details and focus on these essential skills to support your employer and be a great paralegal.