Desirable Traits and Skills

Successful paralegals share many common traits and skills that not only drew them to the profession but also aid in their success. In general, paralegals:

Woman pondering question with question mark graphics in background
  • Are extremely organized and detail oriented;
  • Enjoy problem solving and digging into complex issues;
  • Work well independently with minimal direction;
  • Have excellent communication skills, and the ability to “know their audience,” be it judges, attorneys, other paralegals, clients, insurance representatives, or law enforcement personnel;
  • Possess superior writing skills, and the ability to draft correspondence, legal documents, memorandums, and various legal forms; have a good understanding of legal terminology and the process of conducting legal research;
  • Are accomplished in the use of technology applications that are common in law offices, including Word, WordPerfect, Excel, PowerPoint, litigation support software such as TrialDirector, and legal research technology such as Westlaw and LexisNexis;
  • Are good listeners who have the ability to take orders and follow directions;
  • Enjoy working with the public, and have patience with clients who have continual questions about their case;
  • Don’t mind working with relatively large amounts of paperwork on a continual basis;
  • Understand the necessity of maintaining confidentiality;
  • Act and dress professionally;
  • Usually have a “thick skin” when it comes to abrupt, short-tempered attorneys with looming deadlines;
  • Are able to anticipate an attorney’s needs and have the ability to solve problems without direct supervision;
  • Usually have to perform a certain amount of clerical work along with the substantive legal duties that they find to be more challenging;
  • Possess an ability to work well under pressure;
  • Are willing to put in overtime, especially when preparing for a trial;
  • Have a high level of reading comprehension, and the ability to extract the major points out of their reading quickly and accurately;
  • Are seasoned multi-taskers who are capable of doing several things (or more) at once;
  • Have great analytical ability;
  • Are able to “go with the flow” and change their direction and priorities on a moment’s notice;
  • Don’t need a great deal of encouragement or positive reinforcement to know that they are doing a good job;
  • Are anal, or don’t mind working for someone who is!

Backgrounds that may be helpful to a paralegal include business, English, journalism, medical transcription, statistics, nursing, economics, real estate, technology, and communications. See the real estate jobs section of JobMonkey too.

When looking for paralegals, legal recruiters look for high academics, strong work (or internship) experience, and above all, an enthusiasm for law. They also value candidates with motivation and initiative. Most important, a good attitude is essential!

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