January 21, 2021 Practice Points

Top Five Skills to Look for When Hiring a Paralegal

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.

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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Autumn Nelson is a certified paralegal with Goosmann Law Firm in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.


Copyright © 2021, American Bar Association. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or downloaded or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association. The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the American Bar Association, the Section of Litigation, this committee, or the employer(s) of the author(s).