Qualities of a Good Paralegal
There are a number of qualities that are essential to be a good paralegal. Studies have reported a growth in the need for paralegals through 2018. In order to be effective and desirable in this type of position, paralegals must possess the skills listed herein.
The first necessary quality is legal knowledge; this will be the basis of most of the work done on a daily basis. Paralegals are not expected to be as knowledgeable as the lawyers in the firm; however, they must have some type of legal knowledge and background in order to keep up in this fast-paced field. Some paralegals have a more general knowledge of legal terms while others focus on a specific type of law. Certain firms may want a paralegal who already has knowledge of the area of law being practiced there; others want to shape each paralegal to their specific needs.
Those who know law also know that of the utmost concern to law firms is the issue of ethics. Paralegals are required to have strong ethical sensibility. In the legal world, it is very easy to be dragged down and lose this ethical sense. Acting unethically can mean a great deal of trouble for a paralegal and law office, alike. There are even some law offices that require paralegals to attend ethics training sessions and continuing education to ensure ethical sensibility stays strong.
It is also essential for all paralegals to be highly observant. Attorneys are extremely busy and need to know they can count on their paralegals to catch any small items they may have missed. Being highly observant also means the paralegal adds to each file in a positive way. This could be anything from making sure documents are in order correctly to ensuring none of the facts are missed when collecting evidence or when preparing for and during important meetings or trials.
Along with being highly observant, paralegals must also be quick thinking, especially in instances where the paralegal acts as an investigator for the firm. The paralegal may need to quickly determine from the information collected if a case is beneficial to take. This is a very fast-paced environment; there is often little to no time to respond to inquiries and settlement offers. Paralegals must know how to stay on their toes and be ready for anything that is thrown their way. This is also true when switching from one task that is only halfway finished to a new one that is more pressing.
Law offices are often bustling long after regular business hours are over. Paralegals absolutely need to have the ability to handle a stressful work environment. Due to the nature of legal work, there are almost always extremely important deadlines that must be met without exception. When in preparation for a big trial there are very long days and a lot of tension in a law office, meaning paralegals need to stay level headed to ensure everything runs smoothly and has the best possible outcome.
Communication skills are also very important in the list of qualifications for paralegals. Paralegals communicate with clients, colleagues, court employees, other law offices, and opposing parties on a daily basis. Having appropriate communication skills makes the job much easier for all involved. Great communication skills can also work to the advantage of the law office when negotiations arise or can even improve the career of the paralegal in the long run.
As stated above, a paralegal works daily as part of a team with other legal professionals. Although paralegals are the right hand of attorneys, they must also work effectively with others throughout their office and other offices. Some cases and projects require a large team of professionals to work together, and paralegals must be able to adapt well to this type of situation.
Working well with others does not mean paralegals do not need to be leaders?in fact, they do. Leadership is the next quality that is required of paralegals. They must know when to step up and take charge of any situation as necessary. There are also times when paralegals will have to delegate tasks and run the office in the attorney’s absence.
Not everyone is cut out to be a paralegal. They have a long list of qualities that must be present to be hired and then shown on a daily basis. Lawyers need the best of the best to assist in their firms. Putting all these qualities to use everyday ensures a paralegal stays on top of the game and has many options for furthering his or her career.