I work with a lot of lawyers. I’ve also provided virtual paralegal services and worked in a traditional law office. Recently, I sat down (virtually!) with one of my clients, Marjorie Ingraham, to discuss what she looks for when she needs to hire a paralegal. She’s licensed to practice law in several states, including Texas and Oklahoma. Marjorie’s practice focuses on helping lawyers who are facing an ethical investigation by their state bar. Here are the five things she expects out of her paralegal.
A proactive paralegal knows what an attorney needs and they don’t need to be asked or reminded to do it. Proactivity is a skill that is necessary to your success.
“I need a paralegal who can proactively coordinate with clients on all new investigations and gathering relevant documentation. They must be able to read and understand an investigation letter sent by a state bar so that they can begin gathering the appropriate documentation. This is important because while the bar provides a list, it’s not always spot-on.”
Have a Good Understanding of the Field
Understanding at least the basic legal concepts in the area of law you’ll work in. This will help you understand the basic needs of both the attorney and clients. You’ll also better understand the basic forms, motions, and responses that you’ll likely be involved in drafting.
“I need my paralegal to review certain blogs written by lawyers in my space and to review news sources every couple of days and keep me informed of news items I really need to read. My paralegal needs to understand the basics of what I do so that they can more easily provide me with the right information.”
Staying on top of important topics in your field is important. This doesn’t just benefit your supervising attorney, it also benefits you.
“Since I help lawyers defend themselves in ethical investigations, I need my paralegal to keep up with pending proposals of new ethics rules in my states and in other states when those proposed rules are notable enough to possibly cause a sweeping change.”
Manage a List of Legal Conferences Dealing with Ethics
Many lawyers travel for conferences. They must also fulfill certain hours for CLEs. Having a paralegal who can tell them what’s happening and when it extremely valuable. In many small law firms, paralegals are expected to assist in various administrative ways, including calendaring conferences and CLEs as well as making travel arrangements.
“I attend a lot of legal conferences that discuss legal ethics. I need my paralegal to keep track of the biggest legal conferences, the topics that will be covered, and the speakers. This helps me in several ways: helps me develop podcast topics and guest lists, speaking engagement ideas, and people I should follow on social media.”
Know How to Find and Monitor Statistical Sources
Knowing where you can find information the attorney needs is crucial. You become an extremely valuable asset when you know where to find the right information.
“My paralegal must know how to find and actively monitor statistical sources. For example, monitoring bar statistics related to discipline. The stats monitored should be useful for both writing about legal ethics and lobbying.”