The eight most essential technical expertise for paralegals
Paralegals are critical to any law firm’s success. In fact, they are often the backbone of the organization. A qualified paralegal has a thorough understanding of the law and is responsible for managing settlements, processing court files, conducting legal research, and assisting attorneys with various other important duties.
However, to do their job effectively, they must have a solid understanding of technology – in addition to their understanding of the law. What are the most important technical skills that a paralegal must master?
The most important technical skills to master
If you are looking to move forward in your paralegal career, these are some of the most important technology-related skills you need to master.
- Excel. First, you need to become familiar with Excel and how to create, organize, and manage spreadsheets. There are several Excel training courses available online to help you learn and remember the basics. Only with practice can you consider yourself a true master. You will first learn about functions, formulas and links and over time you will be able to create your own templates for a variety of legal purposes.
- Word processing. While this is one of the easier technical skills on this list, don’t neglect the importance of mastering the use of a simple word processor like Microsoft Word. As a paralegal, you enter many documents, create and use templates, and redesign and reposition documents to make them more visually appealing. It is important that you can complete these tasks quickly and easily. Similarly, to be even more efficient, you should increase the writing speed.
- Document management. As a paralegal, you are often responsible for keeping track of a variety of different files. You are responsible for maintaining and organizing the records of the law firm you work for, including templates and internal notes. You are also responsible for managing customer information. It is important that you are as organized as possible and that you have access to files at all times.
- Research. Depending on the nature of the case at hand, you may be responsible for conducting legal research. You need to be able to look up laws and past rulings and other types of data as quickly and efficiently as possible. This means that you need to familiarize yourself with a wide variety of different websites and research platforms, as well as basic search engines.
- Phones / VoIP. Your law firm may use a VoIP system or a more traditional telephone system. Either way, you spend a significant amount of your time on the phone dealing with technical issues related to the phone. You should familiarize yourself with the basics of VoIP and learn how to troubleshoot basic issues (like latency or interruptions). This is especially useful if you know what system your law firm is using.
- Planning. Planning is a basic skill, but it becomes more complicated as you juggle the calendars of several lawyers, paralegals, and others in your law firm. You need to be comfortable with a shared calendar app and be able to manage the schedules of many different people at the same time. Knowing the technology is important to improve efficiency, but you also need the ability to prioritize and multitask.
- Electronic filing of documents. Many courts today rely heavily on eFiling – the process of filing documents electronically. In most situations, this is a straightforward process, but it is worthwhile to familiarize yourself with these different filing systems. You don’t want to be responsible for filing documents electronically, you just want to find out that the process is confusing and unfamiliar.
- Online Safety. Cyber security is a complex area, but you don’t need to be an expert to master the basics. If you follow simple best practices such as: For example, choosing strong passwords, only using secure networks and not falling for schemes, you can increase the security of the entire company.
Improve your technical skills
Improving your skills with technology usually takes a mix of different approaches. For example, you can read about these skills and watch videos to improve your understanding, or you can take an online course to learn more in a specific area. However, you will also need to practice regularly – often with the support or supervision of someone more experienced than you.
In any case, the more time and energy you invest in improving your technological skills, the more successful you are as a paralegal. You can upgrade your resume and reputation, and complete a wider range of duties for your law firm of choice. If you are interested in career advancement, advancing technical skills should be one of your top priorities.