The Blog Formerly Known As Practical Paralegalism
Sometimes I have homework, which is unusual for someone not actually enrolled in school. But it’s not my homework. I’m a total sucker for paralegal students, so if asked, I try to make time to complete questionnaires for their class assignments. The questions usually focus on advice for new paralegals.
I thought I’d share an excerpt from a lengthy questionnaire I recently completed to help Barbara with an assignment. I particularly liked her questions because they focused on an essential paralegal skill: writing.
Our firm prefers experience in civil litigation, plus strong oral, written and computer skills. However, occasionally we have hired very bright individuals with no prior legal experience, because they showed an aptitude for learning quickly. An associate degree from a paralegal program is usually a minimum educational requirement.
What qualities do employers look for in a paralegal?
Most employers are seeking bright, efficient go-getters that can learn new software quickly and have strong communication skills. Other desirable qualities include an attention to detail, the ability to multi-task and the ability to work in a fast-paced, deadline-oriented environment.
How is the writing process “on the job” different from the academic writing process?
Writing “on the job” involves real people and real facts, and the case outcome depends on your firm’s presentation of the facts and the law. But in the real world, your firm can still write a stellar brief or motion – and not win.
What types of writing does a paralegal need to know or learn?
A paralegal needs business-writing skills, as well as persuasive and argumentative writing skills. The ability to write a complete, yet concise, factual narrative is essential.
What types of deadlines do you face when drafting, writing, and filing documents?
In a fast-paced litigation practice, deadlines are constant and often dictated by the courts. Sometimes they are emergent, depending on clients’ needs, usually for medical treatment.
Has this experience changed the way in which you view your chosen vocation?
I’m lucky that I was able to use my bachelor’s degree in English to write documents which ultimately have helped people. Sometimes the job is stressful, but it is also rewarding.
I recommend brushing up on your written communication skills, especially if they are not your strong suit. Use your word processing software’s grammar check for all written content, including email. Try to get a job in a legal environment while you are in school, even if it is an unpaid internship. Also, join your local paralegal association and start networking before you graduate. Finally, use social media, including LinkedIn, Twitter and listservs to both network and learn as much as you can about the profession.