Valuable Traits for Professional Paralegals
- Organizational Skills
- Technical Expertise
- Team Collaboration
- Conflict Resolution
- Attention to Detail
Paralegals fill a number of roles in all kinds of legal environments, ranging from research support for criminal lawyers to administrative duties in large organizations. While they can’t offer trial or similar legal services on their own, these professionals are tasked with a wide range of responsibilities that can have a determining impact on the client’s position. The complexity and significance of their responsibilities mean that paralegals are often held to a high standard and are expected to adopt key professional characteristics to support their work.
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1. Organizational Skills
A lack of organization is little more than an annoyance in many professions, but this is certainly not the cast in legal settings. Paralegals routinely handle thousands of pages of documents as they look for information that could apply to a specific situation. Keeping documents in order and good condition is a basic necessity for this kind of work. Paralegals may also be tasked with maintaining general filing systems within a workplace, so they need to be prepared to implement organizational skills on a wider scale as well.
2. Technical Expertise
Dealing with any kind of legal topic tends to be a technical undertaking. Many paralegals also specialize in certain subject or practice areas, which demands a comprehensive and specific understanding of relevant issues. The ability to learn and comprehend technical topics is a must-have trait for many people in legal occupations. Proficiency with computers and internet technology are also becoming mandatory skills for professionals.
3. Team Collaboration
Paralegals often serve in supporting or collaborative roles that require them to work with other paralegals, lawyers and a wide range of other professionals. The ability to communicate effectively and collaborate on group efforts is absolutely essential for success. Paralegals frequently communicate both verbally and in writing, so comfort with personal conversations, public speaking and written reports is helpful.
4. Conflict Resolution
Exact job responsibilities depend on the specific position, but paralegals who work in court environments may need to occasionally navigate emotionally-charged or turbulent encounters. In fact, the ability to resolve conflicts and connect with others who are in distressing circumstances can be an indispensable asset in the profession, according to the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA). Personal flexibility and willingness to take on new challenges are also useful traits for mitigating conflicts and solving problems.
5. Attention to Detail
The final outcome of a year-long case can ultimately hinge upon a few details, which is why paralegals must be thorough, accurate and comprehensive in their efforts. Rigorous attention to detail can take many different forms, including fact-checking all important information, seeking out new sources or recording first-hand accounts. Paralegals also need to apply a detail-oriented mentality when researching current legislation and legal precedents that could apply to the case.
Coming up with a single job description or list of desirable skills for legal assistants is a near-impossible task. There are dozens of different skills and characteristics needed to build a strong career as a paralegal, so prospective professionals should start building and developing these traits as soon as possible.