5 Core Competencies Needed as A Paralegal
So, you have completed Paralegal school and learned all you can about procedures, ethics, cites, the importance of confidentiality and the various areas of law you may encounter as a Paralegal. But what are the core competencies that set you apart and land you a job or promotion in a law firm? Based on working with hundreds of law firms, here are our favorite areas Paralegals should master:
The goal of the Paralegal is to keep attorneys and cases/matters organized in a manner that helps attorneys with efficiency in handling legal issues. The attorneys need to focus on providing legal services to their valued clients. That requires easy access to the appropriate documents at hand, whether in court, mediation, arbitration, hearings, trial or while meeting with clients. Additionally, the organization of calendars and dockets is essential to being a successful paralegal or legal assistant.
If there is one area in which a Paralegal must be highly proficient, it is writing, including grammar, editing, proofing, spelling and punctuation. Attorneys do not have the time to proof a Paralegal’s work; instead, it should be the other way around. Understand that the attorneys you support must spend their time advising, counseling and providing value and solutions to their clients, not correcting careless errors. Should you want to check your grammar skills, consider utilizing www.grammarly.com and see what you may learn. The vital art of clear, concise and persuasive written communications will set you apart from your peers.
As a Paralegal, it is all about efficient and effective communication to complement legal knowledge. Whether an adequately written piece of business correspondence, email that succinctly states facts and garners an intended response, or being the first point of contact via the telephone, communication, both electronically and in person, has never been more critical to success. Additionally, communicating well within a team environment on legal matters is paramount to a Paralegal’s career advancement.
The number one complaint of clients of law firms: lack of communication. Once the Paralegal engages with this issue and helps the law firm and its attorneys resolve it, the more valuable the Paralegal’s role becomes.
Law Technology Skills
Let’s face it, the use of technology in legal settings today has grown exponentially. Therefore, mastery of technology is key to being a paralegal professional. Maintaining up-to-date software training and knowledge is essential to executing your job as a go-to paralegal.
Software and technology skills needed in the legal environment are calendaring/docketing, expert word processing, spreadsheets, PDF manipulation, metadata management, electronic filing with the Courts, research databases, document and case management software, and time & billing programs. Additionally, a growing need for paralegals to operate customer relationship management (CRM) databases like InterAction® for legal marketing is a value-add. On top of these platforms, it is important to know how to use video conferencing, Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams and other video and collaboration programs, and the latest trend, business text messaging software.
Lastly, a solid Paralegal has a keyboarding speed of well over 65 words per minute. If you need to practice, try www.typingtest.com.
Research and Analytics
Whether doing internet searches or using legal research databases such as Westlaw or LexisNexis, Paralegals must master research skills. Paralegals must also have analytical skills while ingesting case facts and details of a legal matter. In civil and transactional contexts, solid investigative skills are necessary to obtain medical records, organize evidence or discovery, find background information, search court records and locate witnesses. Thinking out of the box to bring solutions to your attorneys through adequate research is a great way to succeed in a legal career.
While attorneys focus on strategy and the big picture regarding client matters, the Paralegal can shore up the details and provide the leg work needed to help the law firm and its attorneys succeed, manage client expectations and highly value the Paralegal’s efforts in the process. Contact Monzingo Legal if you are looking for more tips on your paralegal career, resume or law job search.