No one can reach success by going through life’s challenges and opportunities alone. Batman had Alfred to bandage his wounds after a fight with the Joker. Steve Jobs had Steve Wozniak to build working products from his aspirations. Even Sherlock needed Watson to interpret his intellectual ramblings to the public. Much like these iconic duos, a great attorney would be shorthanded without a competent paralegal by their sides. Choose the right training, education, and tools to learn the foundation and skills to be that great paralegal – get an online certificate, find willing mentors, and ask for performance feedback.
Being self-aware is an essential skill in any workplace, indicating a strong predictor of overall job success. Employees who are mindful of their strengths, tendencies, and weaknesses have an objective view of their development and behavior. Thus, they can change according to the situation and reach new heights through self-improvement. A self-aware paralegal is better prepared to deal with the high pressure and uncertain situations working in law demands. They understand their triggers, peak energy hours, and coping mechanisms when stress happens.
A law firm is a flurry of activity – defense attorneys practicing their counterarguments, clients relaying their perspective, and accountants calculating billable hours. Working under minimal supervision is the norm for paralegals, as lawyers don’t have time to look over every detail of the project. Paralegals must know how to work independently in their research and investigation, persisting through the slog of contracts, interviews, and evidence.
Being assertive is a critical communication strategy to practice for a paralegal. It shows one is willing to stand up for their beliefs, express their thoughts and insights, and negotiate terms everyone agrees with. Assertiveness is not aggressiveness – a common misconception held by the majority. Assertive people respectfully state their opinions while aggressive people attack and ignore others’ opinions in favor of their own. An assertive paralegal knows how to act to achieve their purpose amicably.
Paralegals deal with people from all walks of life. Be it nervous witnesses, intimidating officers, talkative government employees, or busy translators. Building rapport means forming a relationship with the person where they feel supported and understood. This can make the recipient more receptive to questions and information, opening pathways one might previously not be aware of. One tip is to use open and welcoming body language and conversation topics. Giving a smile and asking how are you can go a long way.
Jargon and technicalities are mainstays in the law profession, which can be confusing and frustrating to the average person. A paralegal must be able to present complex information in a clear, concise, and engaging manner that can be understood easily. One must decide on the intended outcome of the conversation and use storytelling techniques – humanizing data, visual metaphors, and strong calls to action. Without effective communication both in speaking and writing, a paralegal runs the risk of miscommunication that may spell trouble for the attorney.
A skilled paralegal is a valuable resource for any law firm worth its salt. More can be done when every employee contributes their best effort to the company’s goals and aspirations. LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman said it best, “No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy if you’re playing a solo game, you’ll always lose out to a team.”