Top Five Skills to Look for When Hiring a Paralegal (2023)

January 21, 2021 Practice Points

An indispensable paralegal has an ability to multitask, a strong attention to detail, a willingness to learn, an expertise in organization, and psychic abilities.

By Autumn Nelson

According to NALA: The Paralegal Association’s Model Standards and Guidelines for Utilization of Paralegals,

Paralegals are a distinguishable group of persons who assist attorneys in the delivery of legal services. Through formal education, training, and experience, paralegals have knowledge and expertise regarding the legal system and substantive and procedural law which qualify them to do work of a legal nature under the supervision of an attorney.

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If you are a litigation attorney who has never utilized the assistance of a paralegal, here are the top five things you should look for when hiring a litigation paralegal.

  1. Ability to multitask. Litigation can move at an extremely fast and unpredictable pace. It is very important for your litigation paralegal to possess the ability to pivot and move on to a new task at the drop of a hat and be able to maintain accuracy throughout daily tasks even with that shift in focus.
  2. Strong attention to detail. The paralegal is often the last person to provide feedback on any documents being submitted to the court, client, opposing parties, or opposing counsel. Having an eye for catching even the smallest spelling, grammar, or formatting mistakes is a great quality in a paralegal. It is also important for the paralegal to pick out details of anything coming into the firm such as deadlines and reminders that need to be calendared and follow-up tasks that need to be completed.
  3. Willingness to learn. Most state bars require continuing legal education for attorneys as the legal world is always evolving. A paralegal’s willingness to continue their education and the attorney’s acceptance of providing the time and means for their paralegal to continue their education is imperative. Local and statewide paralegal associations are great ways for paralegals to get the education and support they need to continue growing in the legal field.
  4. Expertise in organization. It is the paralegal’s duty to maintain the litigation files. Whether you work with paper or electronic files, there should be no question that anyone who picks up that file looking for a specific item should be able to find that item with ease and without asking where the item is.
  5. Psychic abilities. That might be slightly facetious, but a litigation paralegal should know the case to the extent they can anticipate issues that may arise and already have in place a plan to mitigate the issues. This also relates to tasks the attorney can have the paralegal handle. A paralegal that knows a mediation statement needs to be done and gets a draft of the statement to the attorney before the attorney has to ask for it is indispensable to that attorney.
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What are the 5 typical duties of a paralegals? ›

Paralegal Job Duties
  • Research.
  • Case Preparation.
  • Document Management.
  • Courtroom and Legal Proceedings Assistance.
  • Communication and Coordination.

What are the core competencies of a paralegal? ›

In order to be a successful paralegal, an individual should possess not only a common core of legal knowledge, but also must have acquired vital critical thinking, organizational, research, writing, oral communication, and interpersonal skills.

What three characteristics are common to most definitions of a paralegal? ›

Some of the most common “traits or characteristics” listed in articles related to this topic include: Highly organized (this is on 99% of the lists you'll find) Good communication skills (another popular “trait or characteristic” associated with paralegals) Excellent research and writing skills.

What are 3 duties of a paralegal? ›

For example, paralegals can review and organize client files, conduct factual and legal research, prepare documents for legal transactions, draft pleadings and discovery notices, interview clients and witnesses, and assist at closings and trials. Paralegals must avoid the unauthorized practice of law.

What is the most important role of a paralegal? ›

One of the most important roles of a paralegal is to assist their attorney in preparing for trials, hearings, and closings. A large part of this consists of conducting legal research and gathering relevant information to the case.

What are the four basic tasks that most paralegals perform? ›

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.

What are five ways that a paralegal can do to keep and maintain professional competence? ›

5 Legal Ethics for Paralegals
  • Exhibit Personal Integrity and Competence on a Professional Level. ...
  • Refrain from Committing Unauthorized Practice of the Law. ...
  • Respect and Uphold Client Privilege at All Times. ...
  • Keep Away From Conflicts of Interest or Disclose Them.

How do you brush up on paralegal skills? ›

How to improve paralegal skills
  1. Work as a legal secretary. Many professionals enter the field by working as a legal secretary or legal assistant then work their way up to being a paralegal. ...
  2. Research legal topics. ...
  3. Attend a paralegal training program. ...
  4. Learn how to use popular software programs.
Apr 29, 2022

Why should we hire you as a paralegal? ›

Why should we employ you for the job? The interviewer wants to know what makes you stand out among the other applicants. "I should be hired for this position because I will be a true asset to your company. I have extensive knowledge in the legal field as well as experience working in various areas of specialization.

What are the 5 key competencies? ›

The CASEL 5 addresses five broad and interrelated areas of competence and highlights examples for each: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.

What are the 5 components of competency? ›

The Five Core CASEL Competencies
  • Self-Awareness. Self-awareness is the ability to recognize and name personal emotions. ...
  • Self-Management. Self-management is the ability to regulate emotions and behaviors so that goals are achieved. ...
  • Social Awareness. ...
  • Relationship Skills. ...
  • Responsible Decision-Making.

How do paralegals gain their knowledge and skills? ›

Attend a paralegal training program

Many colleges, universities and vocational schools offer training programs that can ready you for a career as a paralegal. In your studies, you might learn about the stages court cases go through and explore different areas of law like criminal law, torts and family law.


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