In many legal firms, paralegal service play a vital role. These professionals perform a wide array of tasks that help the firm run more smoothly and efficiently. They collect and organize data; research legal issues; draft correspondence and pleadings; oversee trial exhibits; attend court hearings and trials to observe proceedings and make sure the attorney is fully prepared; work with clients, including interviewing them and taking statements under oath.
Additionally, explain how the law affects their case to individuals or groups; keep records of all transactions for both client and firm; write memos about pending cases or take notes during meetings between an attorney and client; review contracts before they are signed by a company or individual, making sure that nothing illegal will be committed as a result of entering into that agreement.
The job market for paralegals is strong and is expected to grow 20 percent over the next decade. With so many opportunities available, you must possess these necessary skills if you hope to get hired. Some may say that a paralegal’s job is easy—and, in some ways it is—but there are certain skills one must have to excel at their position:
Paralegal service demands above-average writing and speaking skills so they can prepare memos for attorneys on cases they’re working on or summarize depositions and client meetings for other lawyers in the office. Good communication abilities also come into play when interacting with clients over the phone. Many law offices try to keep cases as local as possible, so if a client needs to be personally visited, good communication skills are vital.
Efficiently Using Software
Paralegals deal with a lot of data, much of it stored electronically. Knowing how to efficiently use computer programs like Microsoft Word and Excel will make the paralegal service job that much easier for them. These programs are often used in preparing legal documents, summarizing important case information, or crunching numbers for attorneys to make informed decisions about their cases.
Ability to Multi-Task
It’s not uncommon for paralegals to juggle multiple clients at once or work on several different projects simultaneously. Paralegals should have excellent time management skills so they can work quickly yet efficiently.
Attention to Detail
One typo in a memo could mean the difference between winning and losing a case for an attorney, so paralegals must be able to pay close attention to detail. They should also have the ability to recognize when there’s too much information for them to efficiently digest—and then ask for help or refer that project down the line.
Interacting with co-workers is inevitable, so having good interpersonal paralegal service skills is important. People skills come into play when organizing office events, greeting clients who visit the office, or interviewing new hires at the law firm. Good interpersonal skills are also useful when interacting with other legal professionals like opposing counsels and witnesses during depositions and trials.
Ability to Work Independently
A law office is usually a busy place, but paralegals are expected to be self-starters who can complete their tasks without much supervision. At the end of the day, most attorneys are more concerned with getting their work done than babysitting their assistants. Paralegals should have strong organizational skills so they can juggle the tasks at hand while still meeting deadlines.
Attorneys need good strategic thinkers by their side to make informed decisions about how best to handle clients’ cases or plan trial strategies for when they go up against other lawyers in court. Lawyers will often turn over large projects with multiple steps to paralegals so they may assemble information into one cohesive whole.
Ability to Prioritize Tasks
Law offices are often high-stress environments, especially when deadlines are looming or opposing counsels make last-minute demands. Paralegal service providers must be able to improvise and adjust their tactics accordingly to remain productive despite the chaos that always seems to surround them. A good paralegal should be able to identify which tasks are most important or urgent, and then take the steps necessary to complete them. They must also have the ability to stay on task without being distracted by other less pressing matters.
Tenacity to not Give Up on a Case
One quality that is essential to being a good paralegal is the ability to remain determined, focused, and motivated even when faced with adverse circumstances. Lawyers work tirelessly for their clients even when there seems to be little hope of success—and paralegals must have those same qualities as well.
Ability to Work Under Pressure
A paralegal service provider needs strong time management skills so they can multitask without losing track of deadlines; efficient use of software like Microsoft Word and Excel; excellent organization skills; the ability to pay close attention to detail.
Moreover, good interpersonal skills for interacting with co-workers and clients; the ability to prioritize tasks at hand; excellent people skills for breaking down legal language into layman’s terms so clients can understand it better; good strategic thinking for trial strategy when working with attorneys; the ability to remain on task without being distracted by other work in the office; and the ability to work under pressure.
Those with strong interpersonal skills will likely enjoy working as a paralegal—and those with tenacity and determination need to look no further than the law profession for great opportunities. Legal professionals rely on competent assistants like paralegals to help them get through their days more efficiently; therefore, every legal assistant needs to know what skill sets he or she brings to the table to succeed at work.
The skills listed above are just a few of the many that make up excellent paralegal work. There are some legal assistants, though, who may not be able to work well independently or prioritize tasks. So, paralegals need to know how they best function, what their limitations are, and whether or not they need any additional training before entering the workforce.