Becoming a successful paralegal takes hard work and determination. Here are 20 ways to achieve success as a paralegal. Do you have suggestions for more?
- Develop a Plan – Explore a range of non-lawyer legal positions. Identify specific, short term and long-term goals that will lead you to success. Enroll in school, expand your skills, talk to your college, work with career advisors and recruiters, volunteer, intern, and build relationships with others in the field.
- Pursue Credentials – Take steps to obtain a certificate, diploma, or degree. Convenient options are available, both online and in person. Many firms require a credential as a pre-requisite for interviewing and hiring. Higher education will add value throughout your career.
- Continue Learning – Successful people are students for life. Cultivate a growth mindset. Increase your knowledge. Law is always evolving. Stay current and informed by attending seminars and completing practical, skills-based training and courses created specifically for paralegals yearly.
- Seek Opportunities to Enhance Skills – Raise your hand for additional projects to gain experience. Do more than you are paid to do. Go the extra mile. Eventually, you will be paid more for what you do. The money will come.
- Make Connections – Join local and national paralegal associations. These groups provide information, resources, support, and networking opportunities to new and experienced paralegals.
- Embrace Technology – Formatting and conversion expertise in Adobe and Microsoft Office Suite are pivotal. Skills in e-filing, online research, trial prep, billing, and web conferencing software will also boost your value with any employer.
- Build a Bank of Resources – Include organizations, associations, blogs, podcasts, websites, articles, magazines, abstracts, journals, legal references, databases, etc.
- Avoid Excuses – Never hide a mistake; the sooner you admit to it and take responsibility the better. Do not point fingers. Acknowledge the mistake, learn from it, and then take steps to ensure the same mistake is not repeated.
- Ask Questions and Be Assertive – Get a clear picture of the assignment. Most attorneys are more than happy to explain things. The only dumb question is the one not asked. If you do not understand the assignment, seek clarification. Do not guess or make assumptions. Having to re-do work only hinders your ability to accomplish tasks in a timely and efficient manner.
- Check Your Product – Proofread. Use Grammarly to improve your writing. Law firms expect a strong command of English, legal terminology, grammar, sentence structure, and punctuation.
- Increase Typing Speed – Keyboarding and typing are fundamental computer skills that support document production, email, and other forms of communication. They are considered essential for paralegals.
- Document – Paralegals have an obligation to preserve and track relevant evidence. Whether that data is protected in a template, chart, log, spreadsheet, or simple list, follow your firm’s protocols. Start documenting from the beginning of every case.
- Stay Organized – Establish a good filing system. Know where you put files and how to access them quickly.
- Remain Composed – Display professionalism and self-regulate in difficult, highly charged, or stressful situations. Practice empathy. Strive to understand opposing positions without becoming emotionally involved. Face the obstacle, focus on the outcome, and forgive any oversights.
- Maintain Confidentiality – Private and sensitive information should never be shared with third parties. Confidentiality is an ethical duty owed in the lawyer-client relationship. Do not talk about clients, cases, or the attorneys involved outside the workplace.
- Avoid Conflicts of Interest – Identify competing professional and personal matters which may unduly influence a case. Ramifications for failing to disclose conflicts of interest could include lawsuits, loss of business relationships, and employee termination.
- Do Not Give Out Legal Advice – Offering a client, a friend, or a family member any legal information that alters their legal position or legal rights is the unauthorized practice of law. It is a crime.
- Avoid Gossip – Leave your ego at the door. Do not disparage attorneys, paralegals, or other staff verbally, or in email, online forums, or company chats. It makes you look bad. Build rapport with your colleagues. Deal with conflicts personally. Remember, you are on a team working towards a common goal.
- Dress Professionally – Appearance matters. It reflects how others see you and your firm. Avoid attire that is too casual or revealing. Present an image appropriate for a work setting.
- Monitor Social Footprint – Keep it professional. Keep it private. Every online, virtual, or email action leaves a trace. Manage your digital identity and the content you publish, post, and share.
Tami’s Tip: Happiness Over Money – Career progression may include changing jobs for a better position that includes a higher salary and greater responsibility. However, do not consider an opportunity that offers more money if it sacrifices your happiness. If you enjoy what you do and do it well, your skills will be in demand, and the rewards will follow.
Please feel free to comment if you have additional tips and suggestions.
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Director of Outreach and Career Services
Tami has an extensive and varied professional background that spans criminal justice, paralegal education, and international school marketing and communication. Her career has been guided by a focus on developing strategic partnerships that facilitate school growth and student opportunity. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Degree in Criminal Justice from Texas State University.