Legal Career Tips: Know the Basics of the Paralegal Profession

A paralegal performs many duties for both the attorney and the client in a law office, all equally important to the case. However, any paralegal or soon to be paralegal should be knowledgeable about a few important aspects of the field that are exceptionally important. Practicing and possessing these skills can benefit a paralegal personally on the job and provide the client with the exceptional service and representation the client deserves.

Maintaining Calendars and Hitting Your Deadlines
This is one of the most important skills you need to have if you're going to be a successful paralegal. Cases make their way through the court system following strict deadlines, for very good reason. Proper representation of the client includes diligently pursuing the case and not missing important hearings or trial dates. Judges, on the whole, never appreciate missed deadlines and can impose sanctions, or worse, dismiss the case. Most law firms have a software system they use, however, each probably a little different. Tickler systems are the best. They allow a paralegal to schedule and appointment, and then set reminders at appropriate intervals. It allows notes for what is due, including a list of work to complete for the deadline. Learn your firms tracking system inside and out, use it religiously, and check it many times a day.
The Ins and Outs of the Discovery Process
The discovery process will take up most of a busy paralegal's day. Paralegals will schedule deadlines for responses, prepare interrogatories, and prepare deposition summaries. Requesting, organizing and reviewing incoming records and documents and seeking experts are part of the profession as well. The discovery process is tied to confidentiality, so learning the rules fast regarding what can and cannot be disclosed is necessary. Handle this simply by discussing this issue with the attorney. Reviewing documents and medical records requires a fine attention to detail and patience. Proper gathering of and documenting the facts ensure the client gets a voice in their case. A missed important fact could ruin a case for your client.
Investigative and Interviewing Dynamics
Research and investigation takes place through all stages of litigation. Taking the time to hone these skills will guarantee a better case for the client. Fact finding begins at the time of intake, by asking thorough and understandable questions of the client. Research continues when finding proper experts and medical providers. The internet is used regularly these days for research purposes. There are sites dedicated to listing experts and their CV's. Legal research online saves a tremendous amount of time. Legal research includes preparing case synopsis and briefs. Knowing how to find the correct law can be difficult, but proper training and education can ease the pain paralegals often feel regarding legal research. Preparing a list of popular internet including expert sites, your states statutes, local rules, court rules, medical dictionaries and medical research websites will assist you when starting a new case.
Proofreading and Editing
The best way to gain credibility as a paralegal is to consistently prepare work that includes excellent spelling; proper formatting of documents, clear and concise facts, writing that gets to the point, and good grammar. Every document filed with the court must be proofread and checked for signatures each and every time, often several times. Briefs and deposition summaries should have no spelling mistakes and formatted properly. There are standards in each law office for formatting pleadings and letter templates. Discussing with the attorney the proper way to prepare his documents is the first step a paralegal should take when beginning a new job. If your work product is clean and correct, it will get noticed! Remember the saying "a second pair of eyes on everything," and ask a co worker to review the document as well to avoid missing any mistakes.
Whether a paralegal gets on the job training, graduates with a degree or is certified, the inability to acquire the basic skills of the profession is sure disaster. By practicing and mastering these skills with patience, your work as a paralegal will be more satisfying and successful.

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