7 Must-Have Paralegal Technology Skills You Need to Excel in Your Career


Today’s paralegals need to be proficient in a variety of computer and technology skills. As the role of the legal professional changes and grows, a need for technology knowledge is high on the list of requirements for legal industry job positions. The more technology skills you possess, the more valuable you become as a paralegal.
The Bureau of Labor and Statistics lists the following as duties that are performed by legal assistants and paralegals:
  • Investigate and gather the facts of a case
  • Conduct research on relevant laws, regulations, and legal articles
  • Organize and maintain documents in paper or electronic filing systems
  • Gather and arrange evidence and other legal documents for attorney review and case preparation
  • Write or summarize reports to help lawyers prepare for trials
  • Draft correspondence and legal documents, such as contracts and mortgages
  • Get affidavits and other formal statements that may be used as evidence in court
  • Help lawyers during trials by handling exhibits, taking notes, or reviewing trial transcripts
    File exhibits, briefs, appeals and other legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
  • Call clients, witnesses, lawyers, and outside vendors to schedule interviews, meetings, and depositions
Having knowledge of a wide array of paralegal technology skills will increase your career opportunities. Here are some of the most common technologies that are an integral part of the operation of a law firm:
1. Word Processing, Spreadsheets and Presentation Software
Document creation is a large part of a legal professional’s responsibilities. Microsoft Office, Open Office, and Google Docs are common software suites that are used in many law firms. Knowledge of one of these programs is a must for legal assistants and paralegals. As a legal professional, you will be communicating and exchanging documents with other parties. Being proficient in programs other than those used in your office is a great advantage when you are sent files with different file types created with different software systems.
2. Copy Machines, Electronic Scanner and Multi-Line Phone Systems
These office machines are commonly used in most offices. Having experience with these machines will be necessary to function in the office. Knowledge of these machines will also allow you to easily learn and adapt to new hardware and equipment that is purchased by your firm. The ability to quickly learn and efficiently use these office machines is an important part of your job as a legal professional.
3. Document Management Systems
Law firms use document management systems to handle document storage, organization, categorization, annotation and retrieval. Documents are such a large part of every legal matter, a good legal document management system is crucial to the success of any law firm.
There are many companies that offer legal document management software. A sampling of the common systems are AbicusLaw, MyCase, Clio, PracticeMaster, just to name a few. While no one can learn all of these software programs, it is helpful to be familiar with at least one system, what it does and how it works. Once you have these concepts, learning new systems, when necessary, will be easier to grasp and master.
4. Conferencing
A video conference is a live, visual connection between two or more people residing in separate locations for the purpose of communication. Law firms may use video conferencing to eliminate traveling for meetings or depositions that are taking place in different cities and states.
Video conferencing requires special equipment to ensure a secure connection. If used in a deposition, often the court reporting firm will supply the equipment and personnel to operate the equipment. Understanding the concept of video conferencing and how it may be used is important knowledge for any legal assistant or paralegal.
5. Electronic Case Filing
Many courts now use electronic systems that allow case documents, such as pleadings, motions and petitions, to be filed with the court using a computer and Internet connection. This process gives the courts a way to easily manage electronic files.
Different courts use different e-filing systems. Most jurisdictions will offer instructions on their websites on how to use their specific e-filing system. A legal professional may need to learn several different systems and be able to file documents for several different jurisdictions.
6. Electronic Discovery
Electronic discovery is the process of identifying and producing relevant, electronically-stored information in litigation. As a legal assistant, you may be asked to assist in the collection and storage of documents. It is good to understand the concepts of e-discovery and the obligations imposed on litigants to preserve, collect, review and produce electronic documents in the discovery process.
7. Legal Research Skills
As a legal professional, you may be asked to use library and Internet resources to discover and confirm information relevant to court cases, hearings, depositions, and legal meetings. You may also perform related administrative duties, such as preparing official legal documents and maintaining records.
Many law firms use paid services, such as Westlaw and Lexis/Nexus, to perform legal research. Familiarity with these services is a skill that will make you more valuable to your employer.
Learning Technologies
The ability to learn new paralegal technology skills may be one of the most important assets you possess. You can find training and assistance for most of these skills on the Internet in the form of product blogs, instructional videos, and webinar training seminars. Training from co-workers on the job is also very valuable. Seek every opportunity to learn from your co-workers. You may also consider enrolling in classes at your local college if they offer courses on skills you would like to acquire.
Stay Current on New Technologies
As a legal professional, it is up to you to continually seek training and stay up-to-date on the latest paralegal technology skills needed. In order to do that, you need to continually look for new skills and training. One of the best ways you can do this is to be Internet savvy. You can find out about emerging technologies and training through legal professional organizations, LinkedIn groups, or local and national bar associations.
The legal professional who stays current with new technologies and is willing to learn new skills is a valuable asset to any law firm. By making yourself that person, you will greatly increase your career opportunities in the legal industry.

Paralegals: 8 Legal Tech Trends to Watch in 2018

8 Legal Tech Trends for 2018 Paralegals

As we look back at 2017 and gear up for a new year, it's smart to brush up on new trends in the legal industry. 

Technology has impacted our profession dramatically in recent years, and it continues to do so at an accelerating pace. If you're not on the technology bandwagon, you and your firm will have a hard time staying afloat.

This fact isn't a revelation. We've known for decades that success in most industries comes down to adopting new technology. But doing so in the legal profession comes with its set of challenges.
First, regulations make change difficult. Second, sometimes it's hard to know which new products and approaches in the legal industry have value, and which are just hype.

Those challenges aside, firms that don't embrace technology will have trouble attracting the best new legal talent. The revenue at law firms clinging to old school ways will drop off as a new generation of clients takes their business to new-school, tech-savvy companies.

What does it take to join the ranks of the new-school? There are eight major trends to be aware of going into 2018.

Social networks

Social networking is the cornerstone of legal industry marketing. This fact shouldn't be a surprise. Rainmaking has always been about networking, relationship building and word of mouth. It still is; these techniques in their offline form still build practices. But if you're not working the online component, too, you're at a catastrophic disadvantage.
Social media has become a factor in how clients choose attorneys, according to a survey taken this year by FindLaw. In 2017, take steps to ramp up your social presence on your website and blog, on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Doing so will maximize your online presence and help you grow relationships over time.
Your clients, prospects, and leads are online and checking social media regularly. Being part of the social media landscape isn't hard, but there are right and wrong ways to go about it. Invest in expert help this year. Set a goal to get your social marketing plan up and running in 2017.
On another note, discovery of social media is becoming commonplace.  Posts and Tweets are discoverable, and our clients should be made aware of that early on in the case.

Virtual Law Firms

These are firms that can operate anywhere: A lawyer's home, a satellite office, even from inside a Starbucks. Many lawyers have closed their downtown offices and work remotely. Technology lets them do this without hurting service or quality. Remote work can reduce overhead and travel time while increasing flexibility and improving work/life balance. Plus, you have the option to rent offices or meeting rooms as needed.

The leap to virtual doesn't have to happen overnight. Experiment by working remotely one day a week and see how it impacts your productivity and revenue. It may very well provide the edge your firm needs to succeed in 2017.

E-discovery

Electronically stored information (ESI) is considered discoverable in court. ESI includes e-mails, texts, instant messages, voicemails and other electronically stored information. What you need to know: This technological reality has changed the face of litigation. Lawyers can (and should) use digital services to access all types of records. And we need to remind our clients that their deleted texts and e-mails are retrievable.

Legal process outsourcing

Outsourcing legal work to a vendor, law firm or overseas resource has become an increasingly favorable trend for law firms. Streamlined by new technology, LPO continues to cut expenses and reduce workload overflow. It can be a huge factor in scaling your business and managing workflow. LPO technology firms that market to the legal industry are on the rise.

Portals and cloud computing

Cloud-based online document repositories provide secure, on-demand access to records for you, your clients, and your team members. You can store, organize, view, and change files.
Cloud computing, broadly defined, is a category of software and services delivered over the Internet rather than installed locally on a user's computer.  The cloud offers a variety of potential advantages including: 

Low upfront costs
Easy mobile access
Simple setup and configuration
Built-in disaster preparedness

Because cloud computing places data--particularly client data--on remote servers outside of the lawyer's direct control, it is also cause for some concern regarding client confidentiality and the applicable rules of professional conduct.
More clients want instant gratification and access to their documents and records. It's relatively easy to set up, makes for a better consumer experience, and can save you time from fielding emails and sending attachments. Make sure your clients/team have this access in 2018!

Blockchain

While Bitcoin gets the fame and attention, the technology behind it – Blockchain – is starting to affect a variety of industries. We sat down with Peter Wall from steinpag and he stated that Blockchain is impossible to hack or forge, so it is now being used for asset tracking of financial assets. It is also being built into “smart contracts”. Instead of signing paper contracts and scanning them or signing a contract with one’s mouse and clicking various confirmation buttons, Blockchain is being used to verify and store the user’s signature. Smart contracts will allow people to sign legally binding agreements no matter where they are that are recognized by the courts, whether buying a house or agreeing to payment terms.

Globalization of Law

When you were in an international dispute, the first question that used to arise was which jurisdiction took precedence. Today, we’re seeing a global push to standardize laws and regulations so that there isn’t as much of a difference. More countries are pushing compliance with labor and human rights onto their suppliers, such as requiring documentation that the businesses meet international standards and subject themselves to audits as required. This trend is accelerated in nations in regional free trade agreements like NAFTA, the EU or Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Artificial intelligence (AI) is just beginning to come into its own in terms of its use by lawyers and within the legal industry. What’s the impact of this technology on the legal profession? Within the next few years, we will find ourselves on the cusp of a revolution in the practice of law led by the adoption of artificial intelligence – in particular, by in-house lawyers. Much like email changed the way we do business every day, AI will become ubiquitous – an indispensable assistant to practically every lawyer.
So there you have it. Six new trends that aren't entirely new, per se, but are increasingly important as our industry ventures forth into the brave new world of 2018.
Lawyers like to err on the side of caution. Many of us are slow to embrace new technology or rock the boat. Historically, we get hung up asking ourselves whether we can afford to take such risks.
But what we need to be asking is: Can we afford not to?

At the end of 2018, the answer is a resounding no.


Holiday Gift Ideas for Paralegals

Do you buy gifts for co-workers and colleagues?  Our office holds a Christmas party each year where it's optional.   While I don't normally buy the attorneys gifts, I have a couple of paralegal friends that I don't actually work with that I buy gifts for each Christmas.  I also do the Secret Santa at work involving the paralegal staff where I need to find something for a co-worker as well.  I discovered that coming up with holiday gift ideas for paralegals can be difficult, but after looking around, I found a few really good ones I think will work.  


It didn't hurt that I got a very nice gift from a paralegal friend last week,  and I liked it so much I went and bought a second one.  (this was the reason I ended up poking around to see what else is out there for the paralegal) Check out the gift I got below, along with a few other finds I came across.   You do not have to spend an arm and a leg to show your yuletide appreciation for co-workers.  If you have an inside track on types of things those on your list would like, great.  If you don't, this list may be helpful.

Every paralegal could use a glass of wine now and then, right?  After a stressful day with impossible deadlines I can't wait for a glass of my favorite red wine.  The wine glass gift I got from a friend last week I loved so much I ended up buying a second so I could have a set!  Honestly, it seems a lot of my days are so crazy that I'm hitting the "Don't Even Ask" level on that glass!   

What did I end up finding for my paralegal friend?  I found this bracelet for her, and I know she is going to love it.  She is brand new at the job and a recent paralegal school graduate.  I can't wait to give it to her! 


I then had to find something for my Secret Santa pick, and I think this will work out just perfect. It's a great looking T-Shirt and I love the saying, it couldn't be more fitting for paralegals.  This fits her personality so well, I know my Secret Santa pick will love it! 


We all need a good laugh, especially after days of preparing for trial or working to get those discovery responses out.  I found a few humorous gift ideas for paralegals that I think would put a smile on a face any day, even the rough ones.  

Make a paralegal smile with this coffee mug



A great idea for a new mom paralegal!  The onesie comes in both black and pink and I think it's adorable!


How about a simple but useful travel mug


And how about a pretty bag to match the mug? 




A Few Words Before You Buy for Co-Workers

Don't forget you may have to follow the rules or policies when gifting your co-worker (if there's any). Some companies set limitations as to how they can only spend when gifting employees. If your company has such rules, just simply follow them to avoid misinterpretation or awkwardness between you and your recipient. However, if you can't afford to see yourself giving just a simple gift to a colleague who happens to be a good friend of yours, the best way you can do is to present it outside the office. As much as possible, avoid gifts that are too personal, and if you are giving gifts to a group choose the same item for everyone or if not, at least they are all in the same price range.

Happy Holidays!! 




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