There are many skills that a good paralegal should have, but if you focus on these five you should be in good shape. First and foremost would be critical thinking. You’re going to be given random fact patterns for a particular client’s case and you’re going to have to take that and identify relevant, on-point, mandatory primary authority that supports your legal argument. You can’t do that without critical thinking. You have to be able to take the situation you’re presented with and find applicable law to win your case.
Research skills are also paramount because you’re not going to be able to support your legal argument if you can’t find the case law that backs it up. The law is constantly changing so memorizing law is not going to do you any good. You could memorize a state statute and tomorrow your legislature will amend it.
The most important thing is learning how to find the information and where to find the information so each time that you’re trying to locate something you’re able to quickly and efficiently get what you need. Time management is also key. You’ve heard me mention being efficient several times. There are deadlines, deadlines, deadlines when you work in a law firm. Your whole day is full of deadlines and a missed deadline in a case can cost your client their case, they can lose and that’s not going to make your supervising attorney very happy. It’s very key that you have good time management skills, that you know what’s on your calendar, that you’re able to effectively delegate tasks to yourself as well as other staff members so that the job gets done on time every time.
Legal writing and analysis is also going to be a big skill because, again, you’re going to be given this case, you’re going have facts that you’re given, you’re going to have to find existing case law or statutes that support your argument because you want your client to win. You have to be able to take these and pieces and bring them together and concisely, cohesively clearly communicate what it is you’re trying to argue. You want your client to win the case, you have to be able to effectively communicate that in written from. vThe bonus part is that all of our courses require students prepare a wide variety of legal documents and at the end of the program you’ll actually have several writing samples that you can show to prospective employers.
The last skill I would say a paralegal needs to have, and this is a very, very important one, is proper ethical practices. It’s the responsibility of the entire law office to adhere and maintain ethics. You have to have an understanding and commitment to adhere to the ethical guidelines, you have to have a good moral compass. You don’t want to be engaging in any unauthorized practice of law or other ethical violations that may result in your attorney being sanctioned and possibly damaging the reputation of your law firm. We cover ethics throughout all of our courses. We mention it in almost every lesson because it’s a very, very large component of working in the legal field. Knowing what the ethical guidelines are and adhering to them is a very critical skill to have.