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Published On: Mon, Jul 27th, 2015

Organized Efficiency: What Every Budding Paralegal Needs to Know

So you want to become a paralegal do you? This field requires a decent education and some skills that you’ll only learn on the job. Here’s what you need to know to get started.

Select a Specialty

There are a lot of specialties in the paralegal industry. Will you work for a large corporation, a law firm, an estate planning and probate firm, a family law firm, as an immigration paralegal, an intellectual property paralegal, a debt and bankruptcy paralegal, a real estate paralegal, or a freelancer?

Get An Education

You’ll need an education if you want to work in this industry. Because you’ll be handling a lot of legal documents and doing research, you should consider a school that has a strong educational program in law and paralegal services. This could be a traditional school or one of the newer online colleges in Florida.

Pass The Cert Exam

While the certification exam is voluntary, getting one will distinguish you from others who don’t go for it, and some employers require it. Surveys consistently show that certifications like Certified Paralegals (CP) and Certified Legal Assistants (CLA) measure one’s skill level and positively correlate with better pay in the industry.

Be Ready To Work Efficiently and Be Organized

You can’t be a paralegal if you’re disorganized. The entire job is relies on you having an OCD-like obsession with organization. You will be expected to be skilled in cataloging, categorizing, and organizing everything a lawyer needs. It’s time-intensive, and probably the bulk of your job. Successful paralegals set aside a fair amount of time to make their work flow smoother through extensive list-building.

Photo/Nodar Kherkheulidze via wikimedia commons

Photo/Nodar Kherkheulidze via wikimedia commons

Have Good Communication Skills

You also need to be able to communicate with your boss and others in the office. Because the briefs you’ll be handling often contain important client and legal information, communicating the ideas in those briefs to your boss is essential. You are a liaison and your lawyer’s right-hand.

Be Able To Write

Part of good communication is good writing. Most paralegals are responsible for drafting pleadings, documents, and briefs that are both complex and yet straightforward. If you perfect this skill, expect a premium in your paycheck. It’s that important.

Be Able To Research

Being able to do investigative legal research is the hallmark of a good paralegal. You’ll need to track down records that might have been lost or misplaced and investigate cases that the lawyer can’t, freeing up his or her time for other casework.

Be Comfortable With Technology

You will have an intimate relationship with technology. You must master spreadsheet programs, word processing, database management, and cloud computing. If you work for a small law firm, your lawyer probably won’t be familiar with any of this – especially if he or she is “old school.”

At the same time, the legal landscape is changing and law firms are being forced to adapt and become more technologically savvy. The more tech savvy you are, the more competitive you will be.

Julio Knox occupies a senior role within legal services. She likes to be able to share her ideas and insights online. You can find other articles written by her on a number of different websites.

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  1. Benefits Of Being A Certified Paralegal | Specialists in Law says:

    […] Organized Efficiency: What Every Budding Paralegal Needs to Know – So you want to become a paralegal do … strong educational program in law and paralegal services. This could be a traditional school or one of the newer online colleges in Florida. Pass The Cert Exam While the certification exam is voluntary, getting … […]

  2. Pat says:

    As a retired paralegal in criminal law, I do concur with these requirements but two things are missing:
    1. Passion for the particular line of work. Got to love it as you will spend 10-12 hour days especially preparing for a big trial.
    2. Don’t decide on a job for the paycheck. Goes with #1 passion and long hours. Doing it for the money will make your work miserable.

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