Employers in general, look for special characteristics in the personnel they hire: Responsibility, self accountability, vision, confidence, etcetera.
But there are some specific traits that law firms and lawyers look for when they are on the market to hire legal assistants.
Paralegals are a key component within a successful law firm. They are the ones that prepare all the evidence to present in court, coordinate all the witnesses, search for information needed by the attorney to prepare for trial, prepare contracts, affidavits and many other documents, and a lot of the routine tasks attorneys used to do themselves in the past. A good paralegal is an extremely valuable asset for an attorney, their work is so crucial that they even become their right hand. That’s why it’s understandable that not everyone has what it takes to be a top paralegal.
What are these special qualities great paralegals must have?
- Excellent writing skills: Grammar is a must in this job. Also spelling, punctuation, paragraph structure, and other language and written communication knowledge that will help you prepare reports and other documents needed for cases.
- Organizing skills: Paralegals need to manage lots of information for each of the cases they prepare. If you don’t want to lose your mind, you must be able to retrieve actual paperwork, electronic documents, law books, manuals, citations, reports, photos, fingerprints, audio files and other data required for every different case.Paralegals also need to track filing deadlines and court dates, which have to be well organized so they’re not missed. A good paralegal must be extremely organized and systematized in order to be able to handle all of this information without feeling overwhelmed or lost.
- Great attention to detail: Attorneys need to rely on their paralegals to prepare the cases, but most importantly, to keep in mind all the small facts and catch any details that may have been missed. Good paralegals are known for delivering accurate and precise information and for keeping track of all the details that could affect a case.
- Impeccable attendance and punctuality: in the same way attorneys count on their paralegals to meticulously prepare the cases, they also need to be sure their paralegals will actually show up at the office on time every single day. Sometimes attorneys need a crucial piece of information right before going to court, and the worst that could happen to them is to call the office, just to find out their paralegal missed work without notice.
- Multitasking abilities: A good paralegal should be able to switch between tasks, and to work on different cases at the same time. They should be ready for anything and everything, even when it means leaving a task aside to work on something more urgent.
- Computer/tech skills: one of the most valuable skills to have, both for the paralegal and the law firm, are technology skills. Attorneys need to trust in their paralegal’s abilities to use a computer, and all the different systems required to do the job, such as online court filing systems, electronic document management systems, legal software, and task management systems. And of course, the basic computer knowledge, such as surfing the internet, downloading and uploading documents, how to scan, print and share documents, and knowing your way through your computer and other equipment. Having good computer skills will save money, but will also save time that could make all the difference depending on the circumstances.
- Communication skills: By having good communication skills, paralegals are able to clarify any doubts before executing the instructions given by the attorney, which will avoid misunderstandings that could lead to delays and more work later in the case preparation process.
- Good people and networking skills: paralegals need to deal with attorneys on a daily basis, which can be difficult to work with sometimes. They also need to talk regularly with witnesses, officers, personnel at different departments, translators, interpreters, and myriad people. Having good people skills and being able to do networking will make the job of a paralegal a lot easier and efficient.
- A good level of perfectionism: Given the level of accuracy and careful precision required to properly prepare a case, a healthy dose of perfectionism is not only desirable but almost required. A good paralegal’s perfectionism will guarantee all the critical pieces that conform a case are gathered, everything is flawlessly organized, all the people involved in the case are informed and confirmed about their time, date and place of their court hearings and trials, and basically that nothing gets mixed up, misplaced or left out of the radar.
- High level of professionalism: regardless of the industry, a good worker must be very professional. However, this is even more important for a good paralegal. A paralegal’s professionalism shows in many areas, from the way they dress, to their reliability, to the passion with which they do their job. On top of this, a good paralegal must be honest, and have a strong ethical sensibility, as they handle and have access to sensitive information that could ruin an entire case, and even a person’s life. A good paralegal must be able to follow through, overcome any obstacles, find solutions, solve problems, regularly increase their knowledge and skills, and be prepared to exceed expectations at all times.
- Able to work under pressure: court cases and legal work in general is very stressful. There are always extremely imperative deadlines that must not be missed, crucial data and documents to gather, people that must be coordinated to go to appearances, hearings and trials. Basically every component of the legal work is tense, meticulous, and has no room for error. Therefore, a good paralegal must be able to handle all of this pressure without any problems.
Paralegals are an essential part of the legal team. Without the paralegals, it would be very difficult and laborious for the attorneys to prepare a case, do all the research, organize all the evidence, collect all the paperwork, and coordinate with all the people involved. Their work is invaluable, in the same degree that it’s difficult and demanding. Not everyone would be happy working as a paralegal, but good paralegals know, without a doubt, that there’s nowhere else they’d rather be. They have what it takes, and they’re not afraid to show it.
Back to you: What are other skills that help you perform successfully as a paralegal? Leave your comment below.