If you’ve been thinking about becoming a certified paralegal, you have probably already done enough research into the field to know that the position of a paralegal is an important one, both to the individual lawyers in the office and to the makeup of the entire team of professionals working together on legal cases. You may also already know that attention to detail, excellent retention, and sharp interviewing skills are part of the whole professional paralegal package.
The best paralegals help keep the case on track in the office and also keep the client informed about the progress of the case and aware of the specific steps being taken as the case is being built. Because clients can have so much direct contact with the paralegal, that paralegal has to be clear and informational, especially at the frequent times when an attorney is simply too busy to talk. The paralegal will be the point person in the office who sees to it that the client is both up-to-date and comfortable that they are getting all the information they need to understand exactly how the case is progressing.
It is important that the client understand all the various different ways in which a paralegal can provide them with help and support. Clients who know and trust their attorney’s paralegal staff will undoubtedly be very happy to learn that the paralegal is able to provide legal services that are more affordable than when the same services are performed by an attorney.
“Attorneys enhance the legal profession’s ability to provide legal services to clients at an affordable rate. By delegating work which would have been done by the attorney (whose cost to the client would have been billed at a higher rate), lawyers have made paralegals a vital part of the legal profession) – Ohio Bar
A lot of what makes the paralegal an important part of the team and its success is the ability of the paralegal to communicate effectively with clients. Paralegals can not only take and give information and keep the client informed about developments and progress, but can keep the lines of communication open while providing a trusted conduit between attorney and client. So, while knowledge, hard work, and good organizational skills are must-haves for successful paralegals, communication skills are equally important. The bottom line here is that the paralegal plays a pivotal role in keeping on top of the exchange of information and facts between lawyers and clients.
There is another important area of this career that may not have been stressed as strongly as the need for these specific skills: the relationship between the paralegal and the client. Since the paralegal is often directly in contact with the client more than the attorney is, this can be a critically important part of the job and the skills required for it, such as understanding and empathy.
As an outstanding paralegal you will not just be familiar with the law, but interested in being supportive and sympathetic to clients who are often distressed at the legal situation in which they find themselves. As Lynne J. DeVenny, a certified paralegal with over 25 years of experience writes in her blog, clients have. . . “come to us during some of the worst periods of their lives, trusting us to help them and give them guidance until they can get to better days.”
This frank and accurate assessment of the position many clients find themselves in is important to remember: it is generally only a problem that they can’t solve themselves that will bring a client to a lawyer, and by any assessment, this kind of problem is going to be creating stress and anxiety in the client. A paralegal’s sensitivity and response to this stress can make the difference to a client who wants to be reassured that everything possible is being done for them.
The American Bar Association recommends that when hiring a paralegal, attorneys look for “. . . excellent organizational skills, someone who is. . . detail minded and able to multi-task, and who has a genuine interest in the law and empathy with clients’ problems. . .” .
With that in mind, you can decide if you have the characteristics—intelligence, drive, clarity and empathy—that create the best paralegals. And if you do, you can get the education and certifications you need for a career in this important and growing legal field at the Paralegal Institute @ Brighton College online, which offers two different accredited paralegal programs, a Paralegal Associate Degree and a Paralegal Studies Diploma. Contact us today!