5 Necessary Soft Skills To Work As A Paralegal
- Research Ability
- Written Communication
- Interview Skills
Because it is a career dependent on these skills, it is important to know the soft skills needed for paralegals. Hard skills such as technological proficiency are important, but they can be learned and proven more easily than soft skills can. The following soft skills are all central to success in this profession.
Related resource: The 19 Cheapest ABA Approved Online Paralegal Programs
1. Research Ability
A major part of a paralegal’s job is to perform legal research for new and ongoing cases. They may use digital databases such as Westlaw and LexisNexis or traditional law libraries full of physical books. Thoroughness is important because missing a key detail or piece of information could weaken an argument or an entire case. Reading comprehension and critical thinking are also needed to follow a trail of information and understand the significance of it all. Cases are often won or lost based on the prep work that goes into them before anyone sets foot in a courtroom, meaning the support paralegals provide occupies a key role in any legal team.
2. Written Communication
Much of a paralegal’s job revolves around writing. They are tasked with drafting legal documents, e-mails to clients and all sorts of written communication. These writings and documents must be clear in their meaning and comprehensive in their scope. Because paralegals are not attorneys their supervising attorney typically signs off on their work, but in their support role paralegals are heavily relied upon to get these documents correctly drafted. Paralegals also commonly draft letters and e-mails to clients, other legal professionals, court officials, and others, which also necessitates strong written communication ability.
It is important for paralegals to have empathy because they are often tasked with speaking to clients, witnesses and other individuals who are emotionally compromised or may not be willing to trust right away. People often only become involved with an attorney when something traumatic has happened, such as an accident where they were injured or deep financial trouble. The Bureau of Labor Statistics prominently lists interpersonal skills among the qualities a paralegal should have for this reason. The sheer importance of being able to connect with clients makes this one of the most critical soft skills needed for paralegals.
4. Interview Skills
Another task paralegals commonly undertake is conducting interviews with clients, witnesses and other individuals who help a legal team gain a full understanding of the case at hand. Good interview skills go beyond just asking questions and getting answers. The best paralegals change their approach based on the reactions of the person they are talking to, pick up information that is not actually said, ask follow-up questions based on what comes up in the interview and more to get the most out of an interview.
Paralegals need to remain incredibly organized at all times. They often work on multiple cases at once and must keep everything separate to avoid mistakes. This includes client files, e-mails, letters, invoices and any other form of important documentation, whether in digital databases or physical file cabinets. Many law firms use a mix of both, creating the need for paralegals to have a strong understanding of case management software, cloud storage, and traditional filing systems. Organization is also needed to ensure important deadlines are met, as missing one could jeopardize a client’s case.
Paralegals need to have certain qualities to ensure they succeed in this profession. For anyone considering this line of work, it is critical to possess these soft skills needed for paralegals.