Tools of the Trade

Ten Tips to be the Best Paralegal You Know
guest author: Paula Albright, CP, FCP, FRP

  1. A passion for the law: I discovered my passion for the law when I was 17 years old. It continues to this day... and I must say that more than a few years have passed! To embrace your full potential as a paralegal, a passion for the law is required.
  1. Talking the talk: as paralegals we are often on the front line of communication with our clients, court personnel and opposing counsel. Strong communication skills, both written and verbal, are an absolute necessity. My style of writing has evolved over the years and has been greatly influenced by the professionals I have had the pleasure of working with.
  1. Embracing your inner techie: as the legal world moves closer and closer to an almost digital world, it is imperative that you possess very strong computer skills.
  1. Knowing your dance space: one of the most important skills a paralegal can possess is the knowledge of the case law, rules and statutes that specifically pertain to the area of law in which you practice. I practice in the area of estate and trust litigation. As such, I have a keen knowledge of the "key" court opinions, the Probate Code and Rules of Civil Procedure.
  1. Digging for clues: there are very few areas of law that will not require you to perform some type of research. One day you may be researching case law for a summary judgment motion and the next you may be researching public records to create a chain of title for a piece of real estate. Regardless of the subject, your ability to dig in and do the research and knowing where to find the information is key.
  1. Details, details, details: as paralegals we are often expected to discover and retain the very minutia of the matters to which we are assigned. An attention to detail is vital. Your attention to detail must also apply to your writing and drafting give everything a second or maybe even a third read.
  1. Analyzing this and that: once you've done the research and learned the minute details, you are now ready to analyze that information. The skilled paralegal is easily capable of taking of the information gained through research and drawing conclusions that can be shared with the other members of your team.
  1. Doing the right thing: as paralegals we are bound by the same rules and canons regarding ethics and professionalism as our lawyer colleagues. It is imperative, and I cannot stress that strongly enough, absolutely imperative, that our performance always be in line with the highest of ethical and professional standards. Anything less than that is simply unacceptable. And you should expect the same from your lawyer and non-lawyer colleagues.
  1. Playing well with others: be a team player. Always. Adopting the "it's not my job" attitude will only serve to defeat the common good.
  1. A nice, neat little package: the files are our turf, our domain. Today that turf may be digital or it may be paper. Whichever method your firm employs, keep it organized. Should something be needed, all eyes will be on you!

So you have your 10 Tips but the most important tip I can give you is to never stop learning. There is not a day that goes by that I don't learn something new. Your ability to embrace those opportunities will ensure your success!

 

Paula Albright is a paralegal at Ciklin Lubitz Martens & O'Connell in West Palm Beach, Florida. Ms. Albright's areas of responsibility include estate, trust, guardianship administration and litigation. She is certified by the National Association of Legal Assistants, the Paralegal Association of Florida, and is a Florida Registered Paralegal pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar. Ms. Albright has been a paralegal for more than 25 years. She has previously lectured for the Institute for Paralegal Education on Case Management.

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