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Published on July 23rd, 2018 | by Jones

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4 Traits you need to be a successful paralegal

Being a paralegal is where you start out in the practice of law as a direct aid to a lawyer or an attorney. But don’t think for one minute that this is a glorified secretary position. The responsibilities that paralegals undertake are paramount to the work their lawyer does.

Paralegals are in charge of drawing up legal documents, doing research for cases and liaising with clients throughout the court case. The legal duties paralegals perform are absolutely necessary for the lawyer to be able to do their job.

So, if you’re considering building a career in the legal industry, you’re going to need a specific set of skills in order to be a successful paralegal. Most of these skills you learn about through your paralegal courses by UNISA or Boston, for example. But the best way to develop these skills is through experience.

Research-savvy and resourceful

This is a no-brainer. Most of the work you will be doing will need to be backed by research for court cases and compiled into research reports. This includes journal, database, legal, internet and case-study research as well as investigative research for some court-cases. Your job will be to exhaust all possible research avenues and show skills of resourcefulness when there seems to be no research information.

Along with your research ability, you will need to be able to correctly cite your legal references and appropriately interpret your findings for your report. The research-savvy and resourceful skills of a paralegal, therefore, require you to be meticulous in your research. Being able to pay attention to detail will not only elevate your research skills but help you and your lawyer to be successful in almost all of your cases as every angle and aspect would be extensively covered. All the theory behind compiling a substantial legal document or report will all be covered in your paralegal studies. But, the more research and reports you do in practice, the more efficient you will be.

Technologically inclined

Now, because your research library includes a variety of sources, you will need to be technologically inclined. And as your reports will be typed out and stored on a database, it would be advantageous to have a thorough understanding of spreadsheets, reports and presentations.

There is also a technological movement within the modern law industry with legal technology changing the way legal business gets done. Everything is changing over to digital files and electronic case management. So, if you struggle to work with computers, you can trust that a tech-savvy candidate is more likely to get the job. It would be beneficial for your to complete a computer literacy course alongside your paralegal course.

Clear communicators

We’ve covered a few of the communicative actions that are required of paralegals. There’s no way around the written and oral communication skills needed for this profession.

It might seem like all you’ll be doing as a paralegal is sitting in a library room reading and researching all day, every day. While that might be a large part of what you do, it’s not all you are responsible for and being able to verbally communicate with people is extremely important. When you think about it, you will be communicating with clients, investigative leads, witnesses, the lawyer you work for and other lawyers and attorneys all the time. And when you speak with these people, you are a representative of your firm and lawyer. You need to be able to communicate clearly and define your legal authority in the way you communicate.

Then there is the (obvious) skill of written communication. As you will not only be compiling research reports but drafting official legal contracts and documents as well, you need to be able to write. Grammar, spelling, terminology and context are all important elements of successfully communicating through writing.

And, as a general communicative skill for paralegals, you need to be a persuasive communicator. After all, that’s what the field is all about.

Team player

If you want to become a successful paralegal, you’re going to need to be a team player. You will likely be working with fellow paralegals and a variety of legal staff. You will need to be able to work within a team as well as, possibly, lead the team if, for example, your lawyer is leading a specific case. These team events will require collaboration, sharing of knowledge and the building and maintaining of professional relationships.

Also, it helps to know how to work well with others and not just on your own as you will be working under a lawyer during your years as a paralegal. And, although it might just be a team of two, the same teamwork skills are required to successfully manage the workload. 

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