The Blog Formerly Known As Practical Paralegalism
The main goal of The Everything Guide to Being a Paralegal (Adams Media, 2006) by attorney and paralegal instructor Steven W. Schneider is to educate students who enter paralegal programs “with only a vague idea of what a paralegal does.” His writing is very clear and tailored to readers with no prior knowledge of the paralegal profession.
Mr. Schneider is “dead on” about the requisite skills and traits that a successful paralegal will utilize, ranging from consistent professionalism to strong analytical, communication and computer skills. Each chapter of the book contains “Essential” facts, alerts and highlights which emphasize his key points. The following “E Alert” and “E Fact” about obtaining more responsibility once you have a job are good examples of the author’s practical advice:
Expanding your career opportunities does not require a long, serious conversation with your supervising attorney. Chances for expanded responsibility occur every day; there is always more work to be done on a client matter. Suggest a course of action or offer to handle a task; most lawyers respond positively to paralegals who are genuinely interested in the cases they are assigned. (Chapter 3, p. 42).
Suggestions for follow-up should be a part of your response to every assignment. There is always more to do. In the typical law office, assignments go to people willing to do them. If you express an interest in continuing to work on a client matter, you are at the top of the list for the next assignment. Even if your suggestions are not followed, the explanation about why they were not followed is an excellent learning opportunity. (Chapter 18, p. 236).
Note the emphasis on there always being more work to do in a typical law practice. In my experience, attorneys are more than willing to delegate more substantive work to a paralegal that is pro-active, engaged and demonstrates a high level of problem-solving skills.
For readers thinking about becoming a paralegal or just starting their paralegal education, this book provides a very basic overview of relevant topics (written in plain English for readers with no legal background), including the kinds of educational programs available, employment opportunities, internal law firm practices and functions, and the American legal and court systems. If you’re trying to select your first “what is a paralegal?” book but are confused by the many available titles in this subject area, The Everything Guide to Being a Paralegal is a good inexpensive choice and an easy read to more or less “get your feet wet”. Read it carefully, and then pass it on to a fellow “newbie”, while continuing your ongoing research and education.