Essential Skills of a Paralegal
Career Path : paralegal
If you are fascinated with the legal system, but not sure you want to spend the time and money on a law degree, consider becoming a paralegal instead. A paralegal career allows you to take part in the legal system in a big way, short of actually practicing law.
To become a successful paralegal, you should be excellent at communication, computer proficient, well organized, able to keep multiple streams of work flowing, and good with details.
The following are some of the essential daily duties of a paralegal:
- Assist with legal research.
- Prepare legal documents.
- Ensure documents are filed, in correct order, with court clerk.
- Ensure deadlines are met.
- Maintain client accounts, and send out bills.
Paralegal courses like legal writing and research, contracts, litigation, and ethics provide some of the skills you’ll need for these duties.
Calendar is a Verb
One of the most important functions of a paralegal is scheduling, and keeping up with case timelines. If you work in a law firm or office with more than one or two lawyers, you may need a wall-sized white board to write all the deadlines for each case, allowing everyone in the office to coordinate their efforts.
The calendar will become an activity, not just an object. Calendaring items and their deadlines, and then keeping everything on course, will test your juggling skills.
Reading, Writing, Accounting
If you like to read, write, and dig through pages of old books, you will have plenty of opportunity as a paralegal. Your attorney/employer will rely on you to do much of the research that will help her present the current case to its best advantage. You won’t spend all your research time in the legal library, though, because many case files have been digitized and made available on-line by the same journals that published the dusty old volumes.
There are also software packages designed to make legal forms a snap to produce. All the required text is programmed in, you simply fill in names, dates, and other variable information, and print. Many of the paralegal courses you take on the way to your career will focus on how to find relevant cases for reference, proper citation formats, and how to navigate the software and on-line tools available.
As in any office, there are bills to be paid, and payments to collect from clients. Large law firms can afford to hire dedicated accountants, but in smaller offices, these duties will be all yours.
The Clock is Ticking
If the idea of a fast-paced workplace appeals to you, if you’re looking for something more specialized than a job as a typical administrative assistant, if you want a career where you can make a difference in peoples’ lives, and feel good about it, you might want to start planning your education as a paralegal. There’s no time like the present.
Visit Herzing College for more information on paralegal courses.