By Laura Nelson – Paralegal Program Chair, Globe University-Green Bay
So the law intrigues you, and you’re called to learn more about it. Perhaps you are even considering a career in law – as a paralegal or (even someday) an attorney. Have you wondered if you have what it takes to be successful in such a career?
What is a paralegal?
The American Bar Association defines paralegal as “a person, qualified by education, training or work experience who is employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, governmental agency or other entity and who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible”.
What are the top three characteristics of a successful paralegal? In my opinion, and in no particular order, a successful paralegal will possess:
- Effective Communication Skills. To be successful in law, you must be able to communicate effectively, not just verbally, but in writing as well – especially in writing. Legal arguments are first made prior to any appearances an attorney makes in court. They are first expressed in writing in the form of correspondence to the client or to opposing counsel; or in the form of pleadings, motions, and briefs to the court. In law, you can win or lose a case based not only on what you say, but how you say it – or write it. Legal documents containing grammatical or substantive errors, or documents that are difficult to understand will significantly impact your case and your professionalism!
- Outstanding Organizational Skills. In law, you must be able to multi-task and prioritize. Accordingly, an essential skill for a successful career in law must include outstanding organizational skills. Attorneys and their staff have from dozens to hundreds of open files at any given time. Obviously, the attorney is unable to categorize and organize every facet of every case. For that, the attorney will use a paralegal. In addition, remembering and meeting deadlines is essential in the practice of law. Attorneys generally rely on paralegals and an effective “tickler” system to meet their deadlines.
- Loyalty and Honesty, i.e. Integrity. Law is a noble profession – well-respected and honored for its history and its role in founding and maintaining a civil society. Certainly, the profession and those who call it their career have received justifiable criticism. A good sense of humor is appreciated also, with the gluttony of “lawyer jokes” in circulation. Law is hardly unique for the criticism it’s received. No profession is immune or unscathed.
The traits the average citizen seeks in a lawyer, however, are the same traits a law firm seeks in hiring its paralegals – loyalty (to client/to firm) and honesty (to client, attorney, and court); in a word: integrity, that quality whereby one possesses and obeys high moral principles and professional standards.
Are you right for the job? For more information, please contact Globe University.