5 Common Characteristics of a Paralegal

common characteristics of a paralegal

  • Detail-Oriented
  • Organizational Skills
  • Writing Skills
  • Oral Communication Skills
  • Tech Skills

There are many paralegal characteristics people aspiring to enter this profession should cultivate. As law offices seek to cut costs, this profession is expected to grow which makes it an exciting opportunity for individuals interested in joining the legal profession. Paralegals with the best job prospects will exhibit these characteristics.

1. Detail-Oriented

One important paralegal characteristic is paying close attention to detail. This is true whether they are conducting interviews with clients and witnesses or drafting legal documents. Small mistakes can cost a client their case, and like all legal professionals paralegals want to consider every angle in order to give their clients the best prospects. Paralegals may discover the key to winning a case simply by reading in between the lines.

2. Organizational Skills

Organizational skills are an integral paralegal characteristic. This is because paralegals support attorneys and have to keep their own work organized along with helping their boss stay organized. It is always important to ensure important files are not lost or misplaced, especially when they might be needed by a certain deadline, such as an attorney requiring them for a court appearance. The rise of cloud-based storage and software have provided another level of organization paralegals are responsible for, and their organizational ability should reflect the number of places key information is kept within a law firm.

3. Writing Skills

Much of a paralegal’s career is spent writing legal documents. These documents must not only be written well but proofread as well to ensure there are no errors. At best, errors look very unprofessional, and at worst they can have dire consequences on a case. Paralegals should be sure to write in a clear, concise and authoritative voice when drafting legal documents to make their point clear to attorneys, clients, judges and others involved in a case.

4. Oral Communication Skills

In addition to strong writing skills, paralegals also need good oral communication skills. Although paralegals are not entitled to represent clients in court, they may still be called upon to interview witnesses and speak with clients. Due to the nature of their profession, paralegals may interact with clients who are hurt, scared and unsure, and they must be sensitive while still getting needed information. They also must be clear in what they say to attorneys, judges and other legal professionals so their meaning is not lost.

5. Tech Skills

Important modern paralegal characteristics include strong tech skills thanks to more and more technology being adopted by legal firms. The Bureau of Labor Statistics supports this: although the profession is growing overall, paralegal candidates familiar with technology and software will have better job prospects. This includes mobile apps, case management software such as Clio and general computer knowledge. Some law firms still use Word Perfect thanks to its law-specific features and long-established use in the legal field, which requires paralegals to understand it in addition to the more widely-used Microsoft Office.

Students can become a paralegal with an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree. Their bachelor’s degree can be in paralegal studies or they can get a paralegal certificate after earning a bachelor’s degree in another subject. As long as they possess these common paralegal characteristics, they stand a good chance of success in this profession.

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