8 Essential Paralegal Skills You Need to Excel at Your Career

Jun 21, 2018

Jun 21, 2018

The majority of us spend more of our awake time at work than anywhere else so it's important to have a career you actually enjoy.

If you possess the right paralegal skills, it just may be the perfect career for you. It can be exciting, interesting, challenging and deeply fulfilling.

Paralegal programs can be accomplished in less than a year for a certificate program or approximately two years for a Paralegal Masters program.

You can expand your studies to a four-year college or university program for more in-depth education and training.

Before you pull out the flashcards and head off to school check out these 8 essential paralegal skills that will help you blossom in your new career.

1. People Skills

Good people skills aren't just resume buzzwords to get your foot in the door. While it's a popular answer in job interviews it's also important to actually possess them as skills needed to be a paralegal after you get the job.

In the legal field, you need excellent people skills to be able to provide services to clients in a way that's most beneficial to them.

Being able to make everyone and anyone feel comfortable is one of the most important paralegal skills you can possess.

Most of the individuals you'll deal with will be facing a stressful situation in their life. That's why they're seeking the professional opinion and assistance of a paralegal or law firm.

You must be able to find a way to relate in a non-judgemental manner in order to meet your clients' needs.

2. Communication

Your ability to communicate properly and professionally is one of the main soft skills employers look for.

You not only have to be a good listener as a paralegal but it's vital that you can communicate in a professional and effective way with clients, other legal professionals, and others.

You'll be interacting with individuals from every walk of life in almost every stressful situation you can imagine. It's up to you to clearly and precisely communicate all information in a straight-forward and timely manner.

It's not just about what you say though. 55% of communication is non-verbal. Great communication skills include knowing what you're saying when you're not talking as well.

You need to be able to hear anything without an astonished reaction. If your jaw hits the floor when a client is telling you something they said or did, you're not inspiring confidence.

You'll often be the first line of communication with clients and other legal professionals. You need to know how to interact with them in a calming, professional and helpful way.

This includes communication in meetings, on the phone, and through written correspondence.

3. Writing

Whoever said that technology would make it a paperless society, never worked in the legal profession.

As a paralegal, you're going to need good writing skills. You'll be taking notes during meetings, preparing legal documents and communicating through email, regular post, and written memos a lot of the time.

You'll need to be able to write quickly and professionally. Whether you're scratching notes on a legal pad or furiously typing them into your laptop keyboard, the narrative needs to be legible, coherent and factual.

You need to know what to record and what things to never write at work. Your writing skills can make or break you in your career.

It's crucial you learn how to appropriately communicate in writing as part of your paralegal skills. Part of mastering communication will be determined by your ability to research what you're writing about.

4. Research

In the legal profession, you can't get away with conjecture and guesswork. You need to be able to research and deliver accurate, appropriate and compelling material.

One of the main issues with research today is that there's so much information at our fingertips we often have trouble distinguishing reliable sources of information from opinions and completely inaccurate or misleading data.

It's important that you don't just read and restate any information you find. You need to verify, research and reconfirm all sources of knowledge you use.

Choosing valid and reliable sources and verifying their authority on the subject at hand is crucial in research within all areas of law.

You can't present a professional and valid legal document without doing proper research while preparing it. You'll need to be able to do so quickly and effectively as you juggle all the other demands of your job.

5. Multitasking

The great thing about being a paralegal is that it's never boring. You'll have a hundred different tasks to finish for several clients every day.

You need to be able to multitask and prioritize your to-do list. Just because something is on the top of your pile doesn't mean it's the most important task at hand.

There are lots of time-sensitive responsibilities to take care of as a paralegal and you may need to be working on several different things concurrently.

Even when you are focusing on one case or issue in front of you, there's multitasking to be done.

Talking to a client on the phone, while messaging a lawyer online and frantically searching for paperwork in your filing cabinet all while taking accurate notes of the conversation is a daily occurrence.

You need to be able to do ten things at once and do them all well.

6. Organizational Paralegal Skills

You're never going to accomplish everything you need to if you can't find what you're looking for and don't know where you need to be.

Paralegals are always on the go. From the office to the courthouse to meetings at lawyers offices and clients' homes you need to be mobile at a moments notice and ready for anything.

Many individuals are counting on you to be prepared and organized so that when they need something from you, it's right there.

A client who is coming to seek advice after a car accident is going to have many questions. They'll l want you to calm their fears and answer their questions. You can learn more here about the questions they may have.

You need to know what you have to get done and when it needs to be done by. It'll be much easier to get everything done if you organize yourself, your office, your files and your calendar to meet the demands of your job as a paralegal.

7. Technology and Innovation

There's no getting around it, technology is here to stay and you need to understand it and use it to successfully do your job.

Computers are used for scheduling, researching, communicating and preparing the documents for the day.

There are lots of basic computer skill courses that can help you feel more comfortable with technology and help you discover how it can help you successfully do what you need to do.

Computers are great for giving you information at the click of a button but you need to know how to find that information and utilize it first.

You don't want to be cursing at a computer screen in front of clients or colleagues as you're trying to find the file you need.

8. Professional and Proficient

If you're not professional in the way you deliver services and conduct yourself, you'll never be successful as a paralegal. You need to inspire confidence in your skills by presenting yourself in a professional and proficient manner.

Dress professionally. You represent your client and your coworkers. More importantly, you represent yourself, you are your brand.

Whether you're meeting a client for lunch or sending a Saturday night tweet to your homegirls, you need to remember others see and assess your ability by the way you present yourself.

You can get far in the legal profession and the world if you conduct yourself in a respectful, professional and competent manner at work and at play.

You Can Do It

It doesn't matter how old you are, what your background is or what your goals are in life. If you put your mind to it you can make your dreams come true.

Developing the right paralegal skills can help you take your career to the next level.

Check out our blog for more great tips such as this one on how to improve your work and life balance