What makes a paralegal successful?
The intricate and at times complex nature of the legal profession requires well trained and highly coordinated teams. Lawyers rely on dedicated legal assistants to ensure every case proceeds smoothly. Paralegals form a critical part of a legal team, doing legal research, interviewing clients, and drafting legal documents.
A paralegal will therefore need specialized training and experience. This includes a bachelor’s or associate degree in paralegal studies, on job training under a qualified lawyer, and paralegal certification by a professional body. However, working as a paralegal requires much more than qualifications. There are essential skills that are indispensable in this profession.
Here is what makes a paralegal successful:
Passion for the law
Every accomplished professional has a profound interest in what they do. The same is true for paralegals. An appreciation and passion for the workings of the legal system is important if you want to be the best. Paralegals and the lawyers they work for have a deep interest in helping others seek justice through the legal process. This passion drives them to learn more and be better at what they do every day.
Attention to detail
Paralegals are the detail specialists in any legal team. Legal work involves numerous documents, many of which are extremely complex. Drafting, analyzing, and organizing such documentation requires a diligent person who pays attention to detail. Paralegals must be able to catalog, sort, and index paperwork arising from complex litigation and business transactions.
Many cases are lost on seemingly obscure technicalities and facts. It is the work of the paralegal to ensure this never happens. A paralegal who takes care of the details allows the lawyer to focus on the bigger picture when trying a case.
Good writing skills
Paralegals spend a lot of time preparing and drafting motions, discovery, wills, deeds, and numerous other legal documents. This type of work will demand very good writing skills with perfect grammar. You will also need to master legal jargon and write accurate, concise and highly persuasive pleadings. Written correspondence with opposing parties, clients, and others involved in a case, will have to be of the highest calibre.
Excellent communication skills
Paralegals spend most of their time communicating with other people. They are the primary contact between lawyers and clients, opposing counsel, witnesses, experts, and everyone else in a case. They keep clients up to date on the progress of their cases, and advise them on non-legal matters relating to their cases.
Paralegals also interview experts and witnesses when gathering facts about a case. You will need to be good at asking the right questions so as to get the right answers. This will require great oral communication skills. Working in a legal team will require good interpersonal skills as well.
Ability to multitask
Paralegals are the work horses in any law firm. Researching, drafting, filing, interviewing, and coordinating teams is all part of a paralegals day at work. You will be required to track court dates and manage budgets at the same time. This type of workload can be stressful for anyone who cannot handle different projects simultaneously. Being able to juggle multiple case loads and prioritize assignments from several superiors will come in handy when working as a paralegal.
Technology plays a big part in everything we do today. Legal work relies on information technology including legal research software, spreadsheets, databases, and word processors. Cases such as patent disputes will usually be related to technology. Researching and interviewing experts on such cases will require a basic knowledge of technology. A paralegal will need to master these skills in order to be more efficient at work.
A lot of the legal research that goes into building a particular case is done by paralegals. This requires combing through countless case precedents, statutes, and other legal material. Paralegals also investigate the facts of a case by crosschecking witness statements, police reports, and camera footage among others. This demands an aptitude for analytical thinking and good reading skills. Only then can you ensure that you have collected every piece of evidence to be used in court.
These skills are highly treasured by law firms, corporations, and government departments that employ paralegals. An assertive, authoritative, and highly presentable character will also set you apart from your peers. This is not a job for anyone; it is meant for those ready to take on the exacting demands of the legal profession.