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.

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