10 Software Solutions Every Paralegal Needs to Be Familiar With

The right types of legal software can dramatically improve your ability to manage more cases at once than you thought possible when you were preparing for your career and will have your boss recognizing you for being able to do the work of ten men.

 Because it’s so important and because there is so much money floating around the legal field, there are a lot of competing software packages available, and no single solution dominates the field. Unfortunately, this means that paralegals have to be familiar with a lot of different products in order to step in and start being immediately productive in their new positions.

Here are ten of the best legal software solutions that you should be familiar with when entering the paralegal field today.

  1. LexisNexis  LexisNexis isn’t conventional, installable software, but a cloud-based research database. As the leading source of legal data, you’ll spend a lot of time mining the LexisNexis system for case law and other information over the course of your career as a paralegal. Paralegals are often the first and last resort for in-depth legal research; long days working your way through search terms and tracking down citations through the database go a lot faster if you learn this tool frontwards and backward early in your career.
  1. LegalEdge  LegalEdge was the first company to make an off-the-shelf case management product specifically for criminal defenders. This first-mover advantage combined with aggressive pricing and an easy-to-deploy cloud-based service has since made LegalEdge the go-to tool for both prosecutors and defenders. The company also provides hooks to integrate into police and court information systems, a valuable time-saver that competing for general case-management software often doesn’t offer. If you’re working in criminal law, you’re certain to encounter LegalEdge along the way.
  1. Time Matters  This is actually the second LexisNexis entry on the list—the database company also publishes this popular practice management package. Time Matters is the practice management software that sets the standard for the field. One of the oldest comprehensive offerings for law firms, Time Matters is mature and feature-rich, but it is also highly customizable… which means that being familiar with it at one office isn’t the same thing as being familiar with it at another office. Integration with accounting packages make Time Matters a particularly intricate and difficult-to-master product, but you’re likely to end up relying on it at some point in your career.
  1. Microsoft Office  You weren’t expecting to see Microsoft on the list, were you? But no law firm in the country runs without heavy helpings of Word and Excel. Most paralegals spend far more time with the stylized Office logo sitting up in the corner of their screen than they do in any specialized, dedicated legal practice software package. Knowing your way around macros and how to format and calculate cell ranges is ground-level stuff for paralegals and can make all the difference between getting the job of your dreams and playing catch-up at a C-grade firm.
  1. Slack  If you have never heard of Slack, here’s your chance to get ahead of the field. Although it may not yet be must-know software for paralegals, the writing is on the wall: for any field that involves as much jawing and file-swapping as law, a cloud-based, real-time chat and file-sharing service as popular as Slack is bound to make rapid inroads. Slack is already big in the software industry and more and more practices are adopting it for use both internally and to communicate with clients.
  1. HoudiniEsq  HoudiniEsq is practice management software that is renowned for its ability to integrate with almost any other software your firm uses: Google Doc, Outlook, Exchange, Office, Gmail, Quickbooks, Dropbox, you name it—HoudiniEsq can plug in and integrate information from it, simplifying your workflow and automating many of the pedestrian tasks of getting one program to talk to another. It can be installed on a server in the office or run in the cloud, and like most modern practice management packages, it has phone apps available for work on the go. This flexibility has made HoudiniEsq popular enough that you’re probably going to run into it at some point in your career.
  1. Adobe Acrobat  Like Microsoft Office, Adobe Acrobat isn’t exactly specialized legal software, but you won’t find many law offices that can live without it. Producing, altering, and marking up PDF documents is the lifeblood of document exchange between law offices and with clients. Having a firm command of the capabilities and tricks of Acrobat for working with the unwieldy PDF format will make your days easier and your office appear more professional.
  1. JurisDOC  Paralegals are usually the people who get the lion’s share of the work when it comes to managing and creating the reams and reams of legal boilerplate that seems to come along with any court case or other legal matter.  Building, organizing, and distributing all those forms and documents gets a lot easier when you are using dedicated document management software, and JurisDOC is one of the most popular. Almost all case management software can handle some type of document assembly automation, but JurisDOC specializes in creating and filling in legal documents.
  1. Clio  Clio is a cloud-based case/practice management software package that is one of the most popular in the industry, possibly because it is one of the easiest to use. With the peppy, colorful interface, most paralegals have no trouble diving right into Clio. The company focuses on interface and user experience while including all the usual integrations and features that one expects from complex practice management software today, including calendaring, document assembly, billing, and integrated mobile apps.
  1. Bill4Time  Nowhere is the phrase “time is money” truer than in the legal field, and much of the average paralegal’s workday must be accounted for precisely and accurately in terms of what projects or cases were worked on and for how long. Almost all practice management software has some sort of timekeeping feature to track billable hours, but Bill4Time is a dedicated package for tracking time and generating invoices that simplify the process by specializing in it. Via mobile app or on a computer, tracking is as simple as clicking a timer icon and choosing the appropriate project. Although using the software is easy, you’ll have to become adept at remembering to toggle when you switch tasks—not an easy step for the average paralegal who may be working on dozens of different cases on any given day.

Litigation Paralegals: Build Your Medical Resources Library of Knowledge

A collection of medical resources for paralegals can be a benefit to your workflow when reviewing medical records and creating chronologies. Personal injury, medical malpractice, toxic tort and mass tort paralegals can well benefit from sharpening their medical knowledge. 

Medical resources for paralegals

Whether your practice involves a client injury in the workplace, injury due to medical negligence, or product defect or toxic chemicals, you will have a need to obtain and review medical records. 
At times the terms used in the medical records can be confusing and the rationale for diagnosis and treatment is not clear. In other instances, you might need to review a standard of care as it relates to your client’s diagnosis and treatment.
Below is a general listing of resources, both in text print as well as online, that might be of benefit to your office as a whole but to also keep at your desk for reference.
The paperback book is an excellent resource and still remains current. This quick reference guide lists 32,000 meanings of medical abbreviations and 4,000 cross-referenced generic and brand drug names. There are thumb-tabbed pages and when you buy the book, you also receive a single-user access code to the Internet version of the book. The Internet version of the book is updated weekly.
Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests with Nursing Implications (7th edition) by Joyce LeFever Kee

Everything students and practicing nurses need to know about laboratory and diagnostic testing, with an emphasis on nursing implications and patient education.
Each test is discussed in seven subsections in the following sequence: (1) reference values/normal findings, (2) description, (3) purpose, (4) clinical problems, (5) procedure, (6) factors affecting laboratory or diagnostic results and (7) nursing implications with rationale.
This book has been considered the standard in perioperative care for over 50 years and is a comprehensive reference for students and practitioners alike.  Unit I covers basic principles and patient care requisites.  Unit II details the step-by-step procedures for over 400 general and specialty surgical interventions.  The unique needs of ambulatory, pediatric, geriatric and trauma surgery patients are discussed in Unit III. New features include highlighted patient education and discharge planning, sample critical pathways, expanded coverage of endoscopic/minimally invasive procedures and Internet resources. The chapter entitled Surgical Modalities addresses today’s technologically advanced perioperative environment.
The most widely used medical text in the world and the hypochondriac’s bible, the Merck has the lowdown on the vast expanse of human diseases, disorders, and injuries, as well as their symptoms and recommended therapy. It is intended for physicians and medical students, but though the type is tiny and the language technical, the Merck Manual is a valuable volume for anyone with more than a passing interest in bodily ills.
This three-volume set continues to be the premier source that defines the field of emergency medicine. It describes the science of emergency medicine and its application, focusing on the diagnosis and management of problems encountered in the emergency department.  This stellar new team of editors has introduced many new features including a “Cardinal Presentations” section, chapter consistency and more diagnostic imaging throughout. All of the existing chapters have been extensively revised and the lists have been edited to include more significant up-to-date references.  The new 6th edition has added many color illustrations and also comes with membership to the Website which enables the reader to access the online version of the text until a new edition is published.
Oakbrook Terrace, IL, Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, 2001. CAMH, $350.00; CAMH and 1-year update, $565.00; CAMH annual subscription update, $245.00.
These materials will give you comprehensive guidance on the scientific and biological basis of disease processes, pathophysiology, clinical practice protocols, clinical manifestations, diagnostic procedures and treatment strategies for all major organ system disorders. The outlay is great and the depth of coverage is excellent. It cuts to the heart of internal medicine without giving you distracting [and often confusing] information.
This book provides clinical information on ambulatory and inpatient medical care of children from birth through adolescence, focusing on clinical aspects of pediatric care and their underlying principles. Emphasis is on ambulatory care, acute critical care and a practical approach to pediatric disorders. This edition contains new chapters on developmental disorders and behavioral problems, substance abuse, allergic disorders and fluid, electrolyte and acid-base disorders and therapy, plus expanded illustrations.
This text offers new up-to-date content and improved features, in addition to complete coverage of more than 200 nursing skills, a nursing process framework for a logical and consistent presentation, and a convenient two-column format with rationales for each skill step.

Paralegals: How to Cope With a Micro-Managing Boss

I belong to several Facebook paralegal groups that I keep up with on an almost daily basis.  Hearing the stories other paralegals are telling about their jobs and daily work is always interesting and enlightening.  Today a paralegal had a good one and it had to do with an attorney boss that was obviously micro-managing his employees to the point of madness.

micro-manager boss

Being micro-managed is frustrating and discouraging. Your progress is often blocked by your boss's need to review and approve everything, and since you never have the chance to suggest improvements or demonstrate your own ability with a micro-manager you have no opportunity to really shine. In this instance, the paralegal came to the group asking for advice on how to handle a recent situation.  She had made the "terrible mistake" of making a single typo in an email that was sent to the defense counsel.  Now her boss insists on reviewing every one of her emails before she sends them.

That seems a bit extreme given it was one typo and this paralegal claimed a near spotless mistake-free work history.  In addition, she was carrying an intense caseload (something a lot of us can relate to).  Her complaint was that in addition to this instance, her boss was also micro-managing multiple other tasks she performs including the very mundane task of filing.  She was nervous all the time, was becoming filled with self doubt, and her work pace was being throttled.

The micro-managers scrutiny and attention to detail will take time away from your job, putting you in a no-win situation. You may also feel confused by contradictory messages and information you receive from your boss, which reflects his/her shifting (and sometimes mutually exclusive) priorities and goals.

The good news is that you, as paralegals, can reduce the stress and strain of working for a micromanager attorney-boss. However, you can help only yourself because you won't be able to rehabilitate your micromanaging boss.

The first thing you can do is replace your boss with your own positive inner coach boss. Talk to yourself and treat yourself the way you want to be managed. Encourage, empower, appreciate and value yourself and your ideas. Secondly, be prepared, be thorough with each task, be able to back up your work with proof, and keep a smile on your face.
  • Prepare in advance for scheduled calls/visits with your boss and certainly be ready for surprise calls and visits. Always have an update on the tip of your tongue. If the boss is nearby, expect a visit and have a detailed response ready.
  • Learn your boss's pattern and anticipate it. He/she will call you less if you always have the info ready and may learn to trust you. 
  • Get detailed project instructions from your boss in order to avoid future errors. 
  • Pay attention when your boss shows you his/her priorities and concerns, then play to those aspects to your advantage.
  • When presenting options, provide two equally acceptable alternatives so that your boss feels as though they have control when choosing one.
  • If he/she calls unexpectedly and you are dealing with a time-sensitive problem, ask if you can get back to them. Let them know you must prioritize it. 
  • If the boss won't listen to your perspective, enlist the aid of statistics, representatives or other authority figures whom the boss respects to win your point.
  • When dealing with a sticky issue, speak to the micro-managers strengths and comfort levels, using clients, favored people, articles, news reports and competitors' information rather than your opinion against theirs.
  • Keep up with company politics and stay on good terms with as many people as possible. You'll need allies, support systems, and a solid reputation as you continue to work out issues with the micro-manager. 
  • Alert, warn, and inform your boss about important information to show you have his/her back on potential issues. Reinforce that you are on his/her side.
  • Use the boss's own beliefs, preferences, and concerns when presenting suggestions.
  • Keep an email trail of the communication between you and your boss.
  • Avoid direct confrontation.
Instead of fearing the micro-manger boss and keeping your head down and hoping for the best, empower yourself and do things you know are good at and that produce good results that your micro-managing boss can appreciate.  Remember, you are a valuable asset and know your job.  Don't let the micro-manager throw you off.

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