The demand for professionals in the area of law is on the rise. Support personnel are in short supply and law offices and attorneys are offering top pay for qualified applicants. One particularly in-demand position in law offices is paralegal.
The role and duty of a paralegal is to be the support base for attorneys. In civil law, they do the leg work to solve and close cases. In criminal law, they are a constant support to both prosecutors and defense attorneys. They do the research, gather the evidence, file, copy, and take custody of sensitive legal records and documents. In short, paralegals serve a vital role in every successful law firm.
Are you considering a career as a paralegal? Are you wondering if you have what it takes to be successful in that position? Paralegals have specific interests, skills, and personalities. This job is not for everyone, but for the right people, it can be a long, rewarding, well-paying career. Are you the right type? Do you have the right education? Let’s see how many of these characteristics of paralegals apply to you:
1. The Right Level of Education
Litigation paralegals typically hold associates degrees in programs focused on either legal studies or paralegal studies. Certificate paralegal programs are also available for those who wish to transition to a career in law and already hold degrees in other areas. Both degree and certificate programs teach students the same job-related skills and details:
• The litigation process and the law
• Performing effective legal research
• Writing legal documents
• Industry-specific software and other computer-based skills
Once hired, most paralegals also receive training that is specific to the firm or legal agency that hires them. There are also paralegal certification programs also available through the Association for Legal Professionals , the National Federation of Paralegal Associations, and the National Association of Legal Assistants.
2. Good Research Skills
One of the primary roles of a paralegal is assisting in trial preparation, hearings, and closings. One of the biggest parts of this involves conducting research and gathering all relevant information to build a case. This typically includes researching and verifying facts of cases and identifying legal articles, judicial decisions, and appropriate laws that are relevant to them.
The paralegal is responsible for gathering and analyzing information and preparing the written reports used by attorneys that determine the way each individual case needs to be handled. Some paralegals even prepare presentations for clients.
3. Self-Starter/Problem Solver Personality Traits
An ability to work efficiently and independently are inherent traits in good paralegals. Attorneys need to be able to trust that their paralegals are getting all necessary work done behind the scenes to keep their firms’ cases moving forward. Good paralegals need minimal supervision and the ability to analyze and solve problems independently.
4. Good Communication Skills
Paralegal jobs are largely client-facing. In some cases, the paralegal is the client’s first contact at the firm and is responsible for conducting client interviews. That makes the need for excellent first impressions very important. Having good communication skills is an easy way to establish and build trust with the client. An articulate and confident communicator reflects a firm that is highly intelligent, capable, and professional.
5. Highly-Organized and Self-Disciplined
Quality paralegals find the job to be its own motivator. Again, independence is a must and that means the ability to stay organized and on schedule are mandatory. Many paralegals find themselves managing multiple cases at one time. Are you good at keeping large sets of details separated in your head? Are you good at keeping records in a way that allows information to be called up quickly? If so, you might be right for this kind of job.
6. A Diversity of Administrative Skills
Paralegals wear many hats. Some days they’re secretaries. Some days, they devote the entire day to filing. On occasion, they jump in to cover reception. They draft and type, they create spreadsheets and databases. Knowing the most popular software for these tasks is a great idea and will make you more marketable in this field.
7. Sharp Attention to Detail
Strong cases are built on strong evidence. Strong evidence is built on good data and information. Paralegals gather evidence and sort through all of it thoroughly to build a case. Good ones know how to weight the quality of that information, isolate every relevant detail, and use the data compiled in the most effective way possible.
8. Solid Knowledge of Legal Terminology
Good paralegals are well-versed in all the terminology that applies to the branch of law in which they work. There are different things to learn for civil and criminal branches, for example, and there are differences within those branches as well. There is separate terminology for prosecution and defense, and there is separate terminology for plaintiffs and defendants. The more you know and understand, the easier it is to work independently and efficiently.
9. Above-Average Writing Skills
Being able to communicate with the written word is every bit as important as being well-spoken. A large portion of a busy paralegal’s day is spent drafting legal documents. Here are just a few examples:
• Pretrial orders
• Deposition notices
• Legal briefs for various parties
Learning how to write all of these documents and being able to write them well are essential skills.
10. A Love for All Things Law and a Desire to Learn More About it
Lastly, a good paralegal has a passion for the law and the legal process. Even mundane cases can be interesting to a paralegal; there is always something new to learn about the law and legal process. Top law firms in Orange County, CA are looking for qualified, motivated paralegals. Those who have a thirst for knowledge and are driven to immerse themselves in all things law get the best jobs. We hope that this brief description of the job and the qualities needed to be successful at it gives you the motivation to investigate and, ultimately, pursue a rewarding career in this field.