As a paralegal or legal secretary, you have highly specialized experience in submitting court filings, managing case files, planning presentations for trial, and other tasks that usually happen only in a law firm or legal department.
But working in legal support gives you skills beyond the day to day technical duties. In fact, the work you do now is honing very important skills that will continue to be valuable in the long term for your professional and personal life.
Here are some of the top legal support skills that you should be proud of:
#1 Project management
Project management is one part knowing what needs to happen and two parts taking action. It requires the ability to remain level-headed during stressful times.
As a legal support professional, you are often involved in a case from the first time that someone contacts a law office until it’s time to close the files. You look across the lifespan of a case and plan out which actions must be done at specific points.
Docketing, preparing documents, requesting records, and scheduling to meet court and internal deadlines helps you improve your project management skills. Prioritizing your time and skills according to case deadlines will translate to coordinating family events, organizing your day, or planning your next move in life.
Legal support professionals are often the first line of contact that potential and current clients have when they need help with a legal matter. In addition to talking with the public, you’ll also speak with court officers, judges, other legal support professionals, and opposing counsel. With each group, you need to have a clear, effective communication style that cuts across busy schedules, works around confusing jargon, and confirms understanding at every step.
You’ll explain elaborate court procedures, clarify misconceptions, and navigate the needs and messages of many different groups: all of which helps you in building outstanding communication skills.
#3 Writing and editing
In no industry is there a better group of professional writers than in the legal field. When it comes to winning cases, words and grammar matter. Legal writing and editing can be demanding but it improves your ability as a communicator.
You know how to communicate in deep legalese when necessary, and know how to lose the legal jargon when it’s not. You’ve honed the ability to write specifically for your audience as you deal with people from various walks of life. Your writing is clear, concise, and convincing. That is valuable both in the law firm and outside of it.
How you treat people matters. Kindness and understanding are basic people skills, and mastering them makes your professional life a lot easier—and your personal life, too. You know when to listen and when to talk and what each person needs to get to the next step.
Throughout your career, you’ll meet and work with people from all levels of education, backgrounds, and careers. In the legal world of judges, attorneys, legal support staff, and clients, there exists a complex range of education levels, legal comprehension, and day-to-day demands. You’ve learned the best ways to connect with and appeal to them all.
As a legal support professional, you’re an organizational pro. Managing multiple cases, returning phone calls, and precariously balancing court deadlines isn’t easy, but you do it. And you don’t just organize yourself.
Working in a law firm means that you’re often organizing multiple people, encouraging them to meet deadlines and holding them to projects and assignments that they agreed to. Great organizational skills make you an asset to your law office and can open the door to better opportunities. They also help you stay more sane wherever you’re at.
#6 Legal tech savvy
Tech skills like e-discovery, cloud-based accounting, case management software, and management of templates and exhibits just scratch the surface of what legal support professionals can do. And experience with legal tech gives you a leg up when it comes to working with other kinds of technology.
The legal industry is becoming more technologically modern every year, as courts move to eFiling, digital document storage, and other more effective tools. As a legal support professional you will likely be involved in researching and learning each new form of tech, as well as training others (including lawyers) on how to use it. Tech savviness is on the rise, and may very well be one of the most valuable skills you could take away from your current job.
Think about how often you’ve winced at another person’s lack of interpersonal skills, or sighed over another’s lack of organization. You’ve had to hone excellent writing and editing skills, while keeping a string of cases all on point and on schedule. What you do isn’t just beneficial where you’re at now. You’re building a skill set that will benefit you for life.
Which skills do you find most important to have? Let us know in the comments!