When you land your new paralegal job, you’ve got to keep in mind that the employer is investing in you. It costs thousands to train a new person, so the fact that you got the position means that the employer has faith in you. To live up to this commitment, you must be as prepared as possible to succeed in your new position. Here are some tips to help get you there.
Take really good notes
This is applicable in just about any new job, and it is especially relevant in a busy legal or corporate office. Keep a pen and notepad with you for at least the first three months of your new job. Any time someone is explaining something to you, such as how a computer program works, take notes on it. Even if you think it’s so simple you won’t forget it, write the steps down anyway. It is very easy to forget something you only saw once when you are learning multiple new things at the same time. Once the three-month period ends, keep your notes anyway. They will serve as a handy refresher for tasks you rarely do in the future.
Keep some work samples
Samples can create a bank of knowledge you can draw from later. Any time you draft a plea or any other document that is different and new to you, save it in a file that you keep at your desk. If you get a well-written document from elsewhere, such as the opposing counsel, make and save a copy of that as well. You can use your draft library to help you create and improve your work on future projects.
Avoid reinventing the wheel
It can be easy to feel that your tasks are something new to the firm, but in reality, they have been done there before. Instead of trying to draw up a deed or other legal form on your own, ask your coworkers if there’s another case where this has been done before. This will give you a starting point and save you valuable time. Note that this does not mean you won’t learn how to use form books or software to prepare a document from scratch if need be. It’s just a way for you to become more efficient as you master the learning curve.
Do some homework on your off-time
While this hopefully won’t be something you will need to do for your entire time with this employer, you should be prepared to dedicate some of your free time to your new job at first. Get familiar with local court rules, read over the employee manual and learn more about the software your firm uses. If the software is complicated and entirely new to you, consider taking an evening class to learn more about it. The more comfortable you are with all the tools and knowledge of the job, the better off you’ll be.
Volunteer to help
Offer your help to firm projects or committees. Many law firms have volunteer employee groups who work on specific administrative tasks, such as the creation and maintenance of specific case law or organizing the summer picnic or holiday parties. These committees can be diverse, giving you the chance to work with people you may not see otherwise. This could lead to your interest in another department that may be your real passion, and it will also show your employers that you’re dedicated to the firm’s overall success.
As a new paralegal, always being open to listening and learning will be important traits to have. Set yourself up for success by using the tips above and being prepared to accept the knowledge you are being offered.