So you’ve heard about paralegals and know a little about what they do. But which qualities make the most sought after and useful paralegals? Are they the same qualities you need to be a good lawyer?
Actually, they’re rather similar. The word 'para' comes from Greek and loosely means 'alongside', as it does in the word parallel. Within the workplace, paralegals are being relied upon more and more, and due to the similar subject matter, the skills necessary are similar to that of a solicitor.
So what skills do I need to be a paralegal?
You’ll need excellent communication skills, both spoken and written. You’ll be interacting with clients and briefing lawyers, and you’ll need to communicate information clearly. Negotiation and problem-solving skills are also essential. Problems will arise; whether it’s due to a clash of interests or legislative ambiguity, you’ve got to solve it.
Organisation and time management
Probably the more important is exceptional organisational and time management skills. It is likely you will be receiving work and requests from multiple people at once, as well as having your own responsibilities. The ability to work under pressure and to meet deadlines is essential because people will be relying upon you for information and at times for judgements. A good paralegal is also able to follow instructions to a tee because if something is not done, or not done well enough, the lawyers you are working with can’t do their work either and everyone gets behind.
Researching skills are some of the most important paralegal skill-set. The ability to absorb lots of complex information and distil it down to something easily digestible, while maintaining a high level of accuracy and attention to detail, is invaluable. Paralegal work can include things such as producing updates and bulletins to keep lawyers up to speed with recent developments, or writing articles for professional journals.
A team player who has patience and some tact. You’ll be working with a lot of different people within your firm or company, as well as with various external clients. People behave and respond differently to others, so you must be able to tailor your manner to interact positively with each.
Professionalism and respect for confidentiality almost go without saying, but it is of vital importance due to the legal nature of the work.
Next article: How to become a paralegal