10 Books to Boost Your Paralegal Career

Every paralegal should have a library of resources, either on a bookshelf at work or as part of the paralegal home office. Figuring out which books to include in that resource can be time-consuming, however, and we all know time is not something you have much of as a paralegal. So we’ve compiled this short list of 10 must-have books for you.

Paralegal Student Books

So you can quickly find the resources most applicable to your current career situation, we’ve grouped the books into three categories: one that’s career oriented, one that’s focused on the actual litigation part of being a paralegal, and a category on reference books to help you become a better writer as a paralegal or legal assistant.
Paralegal career advice
This is more than just a beginner’s guide to the paralegal career. This book will guide you along the way as you start and then build that career. You’ll learn about working in the legal environment, the importance of professional development, strategies for working with those in your law office, and more to marketable paralegal skills now and in the future.
Whether you’re new to the field or a seasoned professional, you can learn from this book. With practical and proven tips from some of the most successful paralegals in the business, this book can help you improve your skills, productivity and career potential.
This books teaches you what law firms really want from their paralegal staff. Written by a former attorney who is now a paralegal educator, this book describes real life law-office situations and how to handle them. The advice comes from the author as well as from practicing paralegals, and the emphasis is on making lessons stick, with teaching and retention tools, as well as listings for additional resources.

Would you like to work on your own rather than as part of a law office? This book is for you. You’ll learn from prominent paralegals who are already successful in the field as you get both legal and business advice for launching your own independent paralegal career.
Paralegal litigation advice
Once you’re working as a paralegal and you have a clear course for your career, the books in this category will help you to improve about the actual litigation part of your job.
Fundamentals of Litigation for Paralegals by Marlene A. Maerowitz and Thomas A. Mauet.
Although this is a textbook used in classrooms, it’s worth a look for your own self edification. The textbook walks you through the complete process of litigation, and includes examples and case scenarios as well as actual documents for you to learn from.
Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges by Antonin Scalia and Bryan A. Garner.
You’d think a book co-written by a Supreme Court Justice would be a good resource for how to persuade judges, and this one is! Among other lessons, you’ll learn how to craft an argument with legal reasoning. The authors also examine the art of brief writing, and how to succeed in an oral argument.
Gerry Spence has never lost a criminal case, either as a prosecutor or defense attorney, as of 2014. He has not lost a civil case since 1969. Obviously, he can teach you a thing or two about winning an argument!
Paralegal writing advice
The reference books in this category might intrigue you less than the ones listed above, and they’re not the kind of books you sit down and read cover to cover, but they should be on your office bookshelf so you can turn to them when needed…
The Elements of Legal Style by Bryan A. Garner.
Make your writing clearer, more precise, more persuasive, and above all more stylish with this book as a resource.
This book covers punctuation, capitalization, grammar, prose style, and clarity in general.
Black’s Law Dictionary by Bryan A. Garner.
The most widely cited law book in the world, this is an authoritative, comprehensive law dictionary. You can find an online version of this law dictionary here, where you can also download a mobile version for your phone.
Building your paralegal resource library is not something you have to do overnight (nor can you afford to!), so keep this list handy and set a goal to add a book per month or every couple of months. Then read or at least scan each book as it joins your collection so you’re familiar with what it offers you as you advance in your career.

The Art of Estimating for Time Management: How Long Will It Really Take You?

How would you rate your ability to estimate how long it takes you to:

check your email?

go grocery shopping?

make appointments?

complete phone calls?

One skill that is essential to effective time management is to master the art of time estimation. It's this ability that will enable you to plan accordingly and leave yourself enough time for anything that is on your schedule and to-do list. Everything that requires an action takes time. Sometimes that means that you will need to break larger projects up into smaller pieces over time in order to get the entire thing done, especially if there is a deadline involved. Underestimating the time needed to complete projects can seriously throw off a schedule and cause problems such as missed deadlines.  

I would also suggest the three following strategies that will assist you in estimating your time: 

First, let people know your time limitations. Whether it's a meeting or phone call it's okay to let the other person know how much time you have available. That will enable them to focus on what is important and not waste valuable time. If the other person has difficulty being concise, reminding them throughout the meeting or call will be helpful and reduce cutting him or her off.

Second, if you want to get a realistic picture of how much time specific tasks currently take you, use a timer. Don't judge yourself, simply choose a specific task and set the timer. This type of exercise will provide you with valuable information and help you schedule and manage your time. You don't necessarily need to shorten the amount of time that a given activity takes, but having a realistic picture of it will allow you to plan accordingly.

Finally, leave yourself some flexibility and don't schedule too tightly. Include commute time to and from errands and appointments. Block off time to concentrate on email and social media rather than check haphazardly throughout the day. Include time for breaks and meals. If you find that you get to an appointment early, have something to read or go for a walk. Even if you only have an extra five minutes you can use it to enjoy deep breathing!

These are common sense strategies for time management that you will want to use.  The result? Less stress and a boost in productivity. 

Got questions? You can post your comments and questions below!

Paralegals: 13 Free Sites to Use for Legal Research

Legal research is expensive, but there are a number of free alternatives available. Aside from running over to the law library at the local courthouse or law school, or hiring law students with subscription access to Westlaw and Lexis, your options can sometimes be limiting. However, the trend is moving away from traditional hard copy books towards electronic formats. Unless you have your own law library, you’re probably looking for a low-to-no-cost solution for your research needs.
I’ve listed some free resources available for primary and secondary sources and also some places that provide quick and easy background information about the law.
  1. Lexis Web: This is a great place to start here for everything legal. Use the filters to find exactly what you need.
  2. Casemaker X: A great tool for attorneys practicing in Texas, or any other jurisdiction for that matter (bar membership comes with free access). This is a free legal research database that allows you to access statutes, regulations, and case law. Although Casemaker X is not as comprehensive as the paid subscription services, it does provide a wealth of information at no cost.
  3. Fastcase: This is another database that offers free access for bar members. Similar to Casemaker X, the site provides statutes, regulations, and case law. Plus, their mobile app is free, which is great when you aren’t in front of a computer.
  4. Google Scholar: Google also provides free case law searching, which can be filtered by jurisdiction.
  5. United States Code: The entire U.S.C. in a searchable and easy to use format.
  6. State statutes: every state legislature provides free access to its Constitutions and statutes. Each of these state codes are searchable and easy to use
    1. Texas Statutes
    2. California Statutes
    3. Florida Statutes
    4. New York Statutes
  7. Code of Federal Regulations: This is an e-format of the Code of Federal Regulations.
  1. Nolo: This site is informative and thorough, relaying a tremendous amount of legal information without all the legalese.
  2. Legal Information Institute: A helpful site that provides a wealth of information, particularly the legal encyclopedia.
  3. Justia: Another free legal encyclopedia that, in addition helpful law information, also provides on point case law footnotes.
  4. Local attorney websites: Check attorney websites for contact information, the types of law services offered, and sometimes, free information pertaining to the law in their jurisdiction. This free information can be very useful to attorneys who may need to familiarize themselves with an area of the law.
  5. Find Law: Similar to Nolo, this is another easy to use source for background information.
  6. Local government agencies: Many local government agencies have relevant legal information available on their websites. For example, in Texas, if you need specific employment law information, the Texas Workforce Commission is very comprehensive.
Of course these sites might not have everything you need, but they should get you started. If you’re a solo practitioner or small firm and legal research costs are a priority, bookmark these sites. Often times, it’s better to familiarize yourself with a new area of law by doing some background reading. Not only will this cut down on the amount of time it takes to find what you need, but when it comes time to switch over to your paid subscription service you already have your search terms. With paid subscription databases where each search and each click costs money, fewer searches means less cost to you and your client.
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