Paralegals, those in-demand individuals who assist attorneys in delivering legal services, play an essential role both in both the legal department of various businesses and in legal offices. Their education, training, and work experience enable them to perform crucial legal footwork under the “umbrellas” of an attorney. Obviously, a fascination with and profound interest in all things pertaining to law is foundational to a paralegal career, but there are many skills and personality traits that determine the amount of success a paralegal will attain.
Hard Skills – skills that, while they come more easily to some, can still be taught to individuals.
• Excellent Organizational Skills: Paralegals are “on the run” for the attorney they are assisting and often must promptly produce files, information, and other items of interest. The ability to keep data organized is essential.
• Detail Oriented: In the legal field, every detail, no matter how small, has the potential to make or break an outcome. The ability to notice, record, and manage every detail can shape a paralegal’s career.
• Research Capabilities: In every case, there are various aspects to be researched, from precedents to regulations, to current events, etc. Excellent research skills are a must for paralegal candidates.
• Analytical: Research and discovery are only the beginning. A great paralegal must be able to analyze the collected information, inferring meaning from both written and oral material and reaching reliable conclusions.
• Exceptional Communicator: The ability to communicate both verbally and in writing on multiple levels with varying groups of people is vital. Not only does a paralegal need to be a keen listener, but they must also be able to write drafts and other legal documents.
• Computer Literacy: It’s a given that a strong knowledge of, and high level of skills in Microsoft is a must, but paralegals must also have an in-depth understanding of other computer programs designed for the legal field. Programs such as Above the Law, The Paralegal Mentor, Nolo, and the GPO’s Federal Digital System.
Soft Skills – those skills that aren’t learned in “class,” yet are vital to a successful paralegal career.
• People Skills: Paralegals work with a wide variety of people, including lawyers, fellow paralegals, and clients from diverse backgrounds. Strong skills in reading between the lines, and connecting via healthy avenues, is essential.
• Professionalism: No industry field is conducive to unprofessional behavior, of course, but in the legal field, it is imperative to conduct oneself with professionalism and business protocol.
• Reliability: A paralegal must be able to work under pressure – the legal scene is filled with deadlines – and independently. When the job needs to be done, the paralegal must be able to accomplish it, knowing the answers or where to find them.
• Sound Judgement: Sometimes paralegals need to move forward independently and find solutions. Other times, they need to discuss a situation with the attorney before making the next step. A great paralegal knows how to read the situations and make a solid judgment between these two courses of action. He/she also understands the process and time involved in “forming an opinion or making a decision” only after watchful thought and research.
• Logic: The ability to think logically and analytically, identifying the key aspects, concepts, and facts of each case; and then relating those clearly and concisely to pertinent parties is vital to a successful paralegal career.
• Patience and Persistence: Paralegals must learn to keep going until the issue is solved, with the patience to behave professionally when forced to wait – as they so often do in the legal world.
• Resourceful: Being resourceful, ingenious, and innovative are vital ingredients to paralegal success. Stepping up instead of waiting to be called can make the difference between a “good” rating and an “excellent” one.
• Sound Ethics: Strong ethics, such as adherence to confidentiality requirements, integrity in information gathering and other ethical industry standards is a pillar to paralegal success.
Whether you are a company or law firm looking for top paralegal talent or paralegals seeking a great place to work, contact Springborn Staffing today. We help you make that successful, satisfying connection in Bangor and Portland, Maine and surrounding communities.
Return to our blog next week for tips on a successful career as a medical assistant in our series on “Traits of the Great.”