A lot of people out there have a rather simplified idea of what the legal profession is. As far as they are concerned, there are lawyers, and there are judges, and then there’s you paying the fees for your solicitor. However, there is far more to the business of law than the three corners of this triangle.
Behind the scenes are paralegals, working tirelessly to make sure that every document is signed, every brief is prepared, and every witness statement is taken. The list of job requirements for a paralegal is staggering for anyone who has no real idea of what their duties are, but they are an integral part of a law firm. Here are a few things that you need to know about being a paralegal if you are thinking of pursuing this career path.
Being A Paralegal Can Mean A Lot Of Different Things
The exact list of duties that a paralegal is responsible for will vary depending on the level of responsibility that they are working at. The short version is that a paralegal is often entrusted with the bulk of paperwork and admin duties, which in a law firm is obviously incredibly important.
A paralegal’s daily tasks can include items as essential as scheduling meetings and organising calendars, making sure that clients are billed correctly, and taking responsibility for taking phone calls and answering letters. As you take on more responsibility, you may go from proofreading documents to writing them. You will be responsible for conducting detailed research, writing articles, analysing data, writing case reports, and even taking witness statements.
Being A Paralegal Is All About The Detail
Given the duties that we have just described, it won’t surprise you to learn that the job of the paralegal is incredibly detail oriented. A slip-up, a mistake or an omission can have serious ramifications in the legal profession, and it requires a commitment that a lot of other jobs simply don’t have. If you make a mistake, it doesn’t just mean that someone will have to sort out the mess you’ve made. It means that the firm you are working for could be accused of malpractice, or they might lose the case. What’s more, many law firms are changing the way they work following the pandemic, which means you need to be more attentive than ever. There is a high level of pressure that accompanies that level of responsibility but it’s also the kind of thing that allows people to thrive.
Being A Paralegal Requires Knowledge And Experience
While many careers allow you to hop straight in straight out of college or will allow for time to develop on the job, being a paralegal means that you need to have the practical skillset as well as the legal knowledge. That is why so many people opt to take a paralegal course online. These courses will equip you with the understanding of the legal system that you need and dedicate module time to teach you the skills you need in areas such as research, legal reading and conducting interviews.
Being A Paralegal Is A Competitive Business
There are a lot of people out there for whom being a paralegal is their career choice. It’s the kind of high-pressure, detail-oriented work that can become a passion and for anyone who takes pride in their work, it’s easy to see why it is so popular. However, if you are competing for a paralegal job at a legal practice, you need to be aware that you will be going up against a lot of people who see it as a stepping stone in their legal careers.
Many law firms require their younger staff to spend time working as a paralegal to gain the necessary skills and experience to become a solicitor at their firm. For anyone who is taking that route, they need to be aware that this is not something that they can sleepwalk through while waiting out their probation period. This is as intense as proving grounds get, and mistakes made at this point will not be forgotten.
Being A Paralegal Requires A Varied Skillset
Passion for the law is obviously crucial if you want to become a paralegal, but you will need to demonstrate excellence across a wide range of skills. Administration is obviously crucial, as is time management and attention to detail. You will need to have excellent IT skills, not to mention an awareness of cybersecurity following the spike in cybercrime numbers, but you will also need to demonstrate that you have interpersonal and communication skills.
It’s one thing to be able to comb through reams of paperwork looking for the minutiae needed to state a case. It’s quite another to be able to meet a witness and make them feel comfortable enough to take their statement. You will need to be confident working by yourself and taking the initiative, but you will also need to remember that you are part of a much larger team and be able to anticipate the needs of other people.