Do You Have the Right Stuff to Become a Paralegal?
Paralegals form the backbone of many legal practices. They coordinate the flow of information between clients, attorneys, court clerks and others. They also take on more substantive projects, like investigations and legal research. Intrigued? Maybe you should consider a career as a paralegal.
How well do the following questions characterize you?
|Do you have excellent communication skills?||Yes or No|
|Are you good with computers?||Yes or No|
|Are you able to form good relationships with people?||Yes or No|
|Are you extremely organized?||Yes or No|
|Do you enjoy research?||Yes or No|
|Are you good at multitasking?||Yes or No|
|Do you have a good eye for detail?||Yes or No|
|Are you prepared to work overtime?||Yes or No|
|Do you work well under pressure?||Yes or No|
|Would you consider yourself a good team player?||Yes or No|
What Are the Most Important Qualities of a Paralegal?
Do you have excellent communication skills?
Paralegals work directly with clients, updating them on the status of their cases or getting information from them on behalf of attorneys. You must be able to draft letters, emails and some legal documents (often with attorney supervision). Paralegals also must be able to brief attorneys on research and other tasks assigned to them.
Are you good with computers?
You will need excellent computer skills to be a paralegal. Lots of word processing is involved, as well as using database programs to organize case-related documents and performing computerized legal research.
Are you able to form good relationships with people?
Exceptional interpersonal skills are necessary for paralegals. Paralegals must maintain courteous relationships with clients, attorneys, court clerks, process servers, and many others. Additionally, paralegals may be tasked with investigating aspects of a case, and need to get witnesses to open up to them and share information.
Are you extremely organized?
Often, paralegals are charged with maintaining client files and keeping track of attorneys' schedules. Paralegals may report to two or more attorneys and have to juggle several cases at a time, so staying organized is a must.
Do you enjoy research?
Attorneys often delegate legal research to paralegals, which involves finding statutes, rules or case law to support the client's position. Paralegals may also be tasked with investigating aspects of a client's claim, including tracking down and questioning witnesses.
Are you good at multitasking?
Between status updates for clients, performing legal research, briefing attorneys on that research, preparing documents and pleading, and maintaining case files, any paralegal has a lot on his or her plate. Being able to balance these various responsibilities is vital.
Do you have a good eye for detail?
Paralegals must pay great attention to details, making sure that court appearances are docketed correctly and proofreading legal documents.
Are you prepared to work overtime?
Paralegals can expect to put in some extra hours alongside attorneys when a filing deadline for an important document is coming up. Some paralegals may also travel with attorneys to attend depositions, trials, real estate closings and the like, leading to longer hours.
Do you work well under pressure?
Between organizing case files, juggling several cases and attorneys, paying attention to so many details, looming filing deadlines, plus overtime, paralegals must be able to handle pressure with aplomb.
Would you consider yourself a good team player?
Paralegals tend to work behind the scenes, while the attorneys take all the credit (and the blame). Paralegals also often coordinate between those involved with the case - the client, the attorneys, and other paralegals and legal assistants.
If you answered 'yes' to most of these questions, you may have what it takes to become a paralegal. You will probably need at least an associate's degree to start your paralegal career, but bachelor's and master's degrees are also available. Certification is voluntary but it may give you an edge when looking for a job.