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What Are the Skills and Attributes of a Paralegal?

What Are the Skills and Attributes of a Paralegal?
Wendy Kimbel

My friend and fellow North Carolinian, Wendy Kimbel, ACP, NCCP, was cleaning out some files recently, when she came across her response to a paralegal student’s question, “What are the skills and attributes of a paralegal?”

Wendy shared her very thorough and articulate response with me, and I loved her answer so much that I asked her for permission to share it with Practical Paralegalism’s readers.

The Skills and Attributes of a Paralegal:

  • Listens, watches and perceives what is meant, as well as what is said.
  • Has an inquiring mind–i.e., is a natural born snoop and eavesdropper and can read upside down.
  • Gathers information and stores it away like a magpie because it’s likely to come in handy at some point in the future.
  • Develops an intuitive sense of the law and is prepared to accept its contradictions.
  • Can diagram a whole paragraph as if it were a single sentence (which it may be) and can demonstrate the relationship and effect of the various clauses on one another.
  • Can converse in speech and in writing with anybody about anything, and cultivates a wide variety of connections.
  • Knows that “verbal” means words and can apply to written or oral communication.
  • Appreciates the significance of “verbal” and “non-verbal” because non-verbal actions can be significant as well–such as a handshake indicating a meeting of the minds in the matter of an oral contract.
  • Accepts that it’s better to appear stupid than to risk giving unlicensed legal advice.
  • Also understands that accurately communicating information between an attorney and a client does not constitute giving legal advice.
  • Understands that the words organize, organized, and organizing have less to do with a tidy desk than they do with ways of thinking and is able to operate within a variety of organizational systems.
  • Knows that the most important part of getting an answer is the proper framing of the question and continuously works to develop that skill.
  • Operates within a personal frame of legal ethics, being prepared to be persuaded of the propriety of a course of dealing, and being equally prepared to act, or refuse to act, in the face of impropriety.
  • Knows that careful adherence to all rights, protections and procedures under the law is vital for the protection of the individual rights of all citizens. 

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Wendy Kimbel is a North Carolina State Bar Certified Paralegal and National Association of Legal Assistants Advanced Certified Paralegal, holding specialty designations in areas of Real Estate and Corporate & Business Law. She graduated from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and since 1978 has assisted attorneys in private practice in transactions dealing in money and property.

One Response to What Are the Skills and Attributes of a Paralegal?

  1. Thanks so much for sharing this! With brevity, accuracy and humor, this list deftly captures the many facets of paralegal work. I'm tempted to have it framed.

Contact Info:

Lynne J. DeVenny, N.C. State Bar Certified Paralegal

Owner & Virtual Paralegal, DeVenny Paralegal Services

Email: lynne.devenny[at]gmail.com

Telephone: 336-582-0003

Inquiries are welcome, with free quotes available.

Meet Lynne:

Lynne DeVenny is a North Carolina State Bar Certified Paralegal with over 27 years of experience working on complex litigation cases, including medical malpractice, personal injury, workers’ compensation, and Social Security disability.

Disclosure: I am not a lawyer and cannot provide legal representation or legal advice.

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