No two law firms are identical, and each has its own personality and culture, but the desired skills and work ethic of the ideal paralegal is often fairly uniform across the board, regardless of the law firm or practice area. However, your experience as a paralegal may not be consistent depending on the type of law, the managing partners and your coworkers, which his why you should be observant, ask good questions during interviews and get a feel for the law firm before accepting a position.
What Do Paralegals Do?
Legal research: Paralegals conduct legal research to identify relevant laws, regulations, precedent and other legal information that pertain to specific issues or cases. They may use legal research platforms such as Westlaw or LexisNexis to gather information.
Drafting documents: Paralegals assist in preparing various legal documents, such as pleadings, motions, briefs, contracts, wills and other legal instruments. They may also be responsible for drafting correspondence, memos and other written communications.
Case management: Paralegals help attorneys manage cases by organizing and maintaining files, tracking deadlines, coordinating with clients and opposing counsel and ensuring all necessary documents and materials are available when needed.
Discovery and evidence review: Paralegals often play a role in the discovery process by reviewing, organizing and analyzing documents, records and other evidence. They may also prepare discovery requests and responses, summarize deposition transcripts and create chronologies or timelines of key events.
Client communication: Paralegals often serve as a point of contact for clients, keeping them informed about the progress of their cases and addressing any questions or concerns that may arise.
Trial preparation: Paralegals assist attorneys in preparing for trial by organizing exhibits, creating trial binders, preparing witness files and conducting research on legal issues that may arise during trial.
Administrative tasks: Paralegals may perform various administrative tasks, such as filing documents with the court, maintaining attorney calendars, scheduling meetings and depositions and coordinating travel arrangements.
Compliance and due diligence: In some practice areas, paralegals may be responsible for ensuring compliance with laws and regulations, conducting due diligence investigations and preparing reports or other documentation related to compliance matters.
Can a Paralegal Focus on Specific Practice Areas?
Absolutely, there are paralegals who become particularly familiar with:
- Specific titles and chapters of Georgia statutes
- Relevant local court staff who they deal with on a regular basis for filings
- Certain research platforms (like LexisNexis or Westlaw)
- The specific forms and filings used by attorneys in their specific practice area
As a paralegal, you are free to branch out and work at different types of law firms, but many do choose to develop expertise in specific practice areas to further their career and increase their value to employers in the field.
What Do Lawyers Look for in a Paralegal?
Educational background and qualifications: Many law firms prefer candidates with a paralegal certificate or an associate or bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies or a related field.
Relevant skills: Paralegals need strong research, writing, communication and organizational skills and exceptional attention to detail and the ability to multitask. Familiarity with legal terminology, document formatting and research tools is also essential.
Familiarity with the attorney’s practice areas: While attorneys might hire a paralegal who doesn’t have work history within their area of law, chances are they will prefer a paralegal candidate who is already familiar with their practice area.
Technical proficiency: Paralegals often use legal software, databases and other tools to manage cases and perform research. Familiarize yourself with common software applications used in the legal field, such as Microsoft Office, case management software and legal research platforms (e.g., Westlaw, LexisNexis). Be prepared to demonstrate your technical proficiency during the application process.
Professionalism and work ethic: Law firms value candidates who are professional, reliable and committed to providing high-quality work. Emphasize your dedication, work ethic and ability to work well under pressure in your application materials and during interviews.
Networking and connections: If you have them, you should consider utilizing your professional network or past employer references to gain insight into potential job opportunities and gather recommendations.
Tailor your application: Customize your resume and cover letter to address the specific requirements and expectations of the law firm and the paralegal position. Focus on the skills, experience and qualifications that are most relevant to the firm where you’re applying.
Prepare for interviews: Research the law firm, review common paralegal interview questions and practice your responses. Be prepared to discuss your relevant experience, skills and qualifications and be able to articulate your interest in the firm and its practice areas.
Are You Looking for Paralegal Jobs in Atlanta?
The Dressie Law Firm is always on the lookout for skilled professionals in the legal field. If you’re a paralegal or attorney looking for employment in the Atlanta metro area, give us a call at (678) 726-1429.