When it comes to career choices, it’s no secret that sometimes people start down a career path that won’t ever work for them. While it’s true that life goals can change, and learning what kind of career you don’t want through first-hand experience can be formative, these can be very expensive lessons. With student loan debt, job satisfaction, and career outlook being so critical today, learning as much as you can about your talents and interests before enrolling in a program is essential.
The paralegal profession is a great one, but it’s also not for everyone. Certain skills are required for success that not all people possess. You can still succeed even if you don’t have certain skills, but you at least have to be interested in developing them.
With this in mind, here are some helpful questions to consider before embarking on the journey to becoming a paralegal. If your answer to a majority of these questions is an emphatic “yes”, then you may make a fantastic paralegal and have a very rewarding career!
Do you enjoy multitasking and prioritizing?
Some people get overwhelmed when it comes to juggling a number of tasks at the same time. For them, working on a single project is where they’re most comfortable and will have the most success. Successful paralegals have no problem with multitasking, however. In fact, the skill is a must have. As a paralegal you’ll likely have quite a few assignments every day, all which need your attention. You’ll also have to take care of the needs of many clients who will all have unique problems. Knowing how to manage your time, and move on multiple items throughout the day is critical. Feeling invigorated by this challenge and not overwhelmed could go a long way towards your job satisfaction.
Do you enjoy writing?
If you hate writing and have no desire to get better at it, then the paralegal profession may not be for you. Paralegals often draft documents, pleadings, and briefs, of varying lengths and complexity. Knowing how to write nearly flawlessly with excellent grammar, punctuation, and diction is something all successful paralegals can do. If the idea of writing every day sounds interesting, then you may be suited for this profession.
Do you like the idea of researching and gathering information?
Paralegals need to know how to research. You should both enjoy and know how to work search engines and sift through web sites, pour through books, track down relevant case information, and analyze everything you’ve gathered. If you like learning about things you didn’t know about before, and are exhilarated by the hunt for facts, you may make an excellent paralegal candidate.
Are you comfortable with technology?
Some people would rather we were back in the era of type writers and rotary phones. Others can’t wait to get their hands on the latest Apple product. Paralegals should be familiar with and enjoy working with technology. The modern paralegal will work with spreadsheets, presentation software (such as PowerPoint), databases, search engines, e-filing programs, and more. If learning about and utilizing new technologies is roughly as exciting as getting a root canal to you, then perhaps being a paralegal isn’t the best career option.
Are you a good communicator?
Not everyone is great at expressing their thoughts clearly and concisely through either spoken or written word. Others don’t particularly like conversing with many different people on a daily basis. Unfortunately, these types of people wouldn’t make great paralegals. Paralegals will often have to find out and record information from clients, interact with lawyers and other paralegals, and much more. Success as a paralegal requires excellent communication.
Are you detail oriented and organized?
We’ve been over prioritizing and multitasking, but what about attention to detail and organization? Paralegals are often the most organized workers in any law office. They help keep everything running smoothly and are excellent when it comes to details. If you’re more of a “big picture” and “shoot from the hip” kind of worker, then being a paralegal may not be a great fit.
Are you comfortable with teamwork?
Delivering legal services is complicated and challenging. Working with others who may have different skill sets, and approaches to problem solving is basically required. Paralegals are usually part of a larger legal team which can include associates, partners, other paralegals, legal secretaries, and more. Being able to work as part of a larger team is critical to success as a paralegal.
Hopefully you answered “yes” to most of these questions. Even if you aren’t particularly strong in some skill areas, even being willing to work on developing those skills means that the paralegal career might be perfect for you!