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By: Misty Sheffield, CP (Guest Blogger)
Paralegals are truly some of the most intelligent, amazing, and talented people I know. We learn about topics in paralegal programs that are unique to the legal field. We also possess certain skills from working in the legal world that other professions have never heard of like shepardizing. Some paralegal skills are practice specific. Bankruptcy paralegals are privy to a world I know little of. Our special knowledge and unique skills are what make us paralegals.
What I would like to discuss here are those practical skills you possess that are not uniquely “paralegal.” I find it fascinating to learn how legal professionals bring other talents to the table and how their employers learn to appreciate and utilize these talents. I am going to provide several examples from my career experience; then, I hope to hear from you.
The Party Planner
One of the young associates at a firm I worked for loved to plan events. It was a small firm, but she took advantage of every opportunity to have a party. It was her creative outlet and the firm benefited as well. My birthday rolled around soon after I began working there. I was delighted to find that I would have my own birthday party at lunch. The conference room was transformed into a party room. Some fun plates, cups and napkins added to the festive mood. This associate made a lunch for everyone and the firm sprang for a cookie cake. It was very inexpensive, but extremely meaningful to me. She also planned the firm holiday party and other events.
The Copy Machine Fixer
Every office and law firm needs a go-to copier rescue person. It is never a convenient time for the copier to stop mid-job and start flashing its little red lights. Waiting for the official repair person is never fun either. I once knew a law firm office manager who could get any machine in the office back in working order. She did not just bang it with her fist and readjust the paper tray. She could actually perform repairs. This talent made her the office heroine more than once. I actually think it provided her with additional job security because no one else could perform this vital task.
The Hand Holder
Let’s face it, clients get emotional. Sometimes they are angry; sometimes they cry; sometimes they are just scared to death. Unfortunately, some of the most brilliant legal minds are not the best at client relations. Paralegals are frequently required to be the ones to hold the client’s hand and walk them through the legal process. Empathizing with a client’s emotions is not unprofessional, it is human. The hand holder is a key person in how the law firm is perceived. Studies have shown that a client’s satifisfaction with his attorney has more to do with the way he was treated than the actual outcome of the case.
The Typing Speedy Gonzales
I may not type at world record setting speeds, but I can turn on the typing heat when I need to. I frequently tell my children that learning proper touch typing is the most practical skill they will ever learn. When up against a deadline, you can save the day with excellent typing speed. My very first office as a paralegal did not come equipped with a computer. The paralegals were expected to dictate everything onto tape for the secretaries. Times have changed, attorneys, paralegals and secretaries all need typing skills. If you become exceptional in this area you won’t regret it. Typing speed could make you the key person in getting that brief e-filed before the deadline.
The Shorthand Side Kick
Short hand has become a lost art. I don’t have a clue about it. I do know of a few paralegals who possess the skill and they use it daily. I read an article about a paralegal who was frequently pulled into important meetings and assigned to exciting cases because of her ability to take such detailed and accurate notes via shorthand. She was assigned the substantive paralegal work on the cases because she was already familiar with the facts.
The Tech Geek
Small law firms do not have IT departments. The paralegal who becomes the go-to geek also becomes a valuable firm asset; even having a few Word and Excel tricks up your sleeve can get you a pat on the back. The list could go on and on. I have heard of paralegals putting talents to use in their law firms with graphic design, interior decorating, web design, photography, and cooking.
Enough from me, I can’t wait to hear what non-legal skills and talents have helped you further your paralegal career.
Misty L. Sheffield is a paralegal, mom, blogger, and coffee drinker from Atlanta, Georgia. She is the owner and senior paralegal at Legal Kick, LLC a virtual and freelance paralegal firm specializing in civil litigation. Misty is a Certified Paralegal through NALA and a 1992 graduate from The National Center for Paralegal Training, an ABA approved program in Atlanta, Georgia. She is also a 1991 graduate of the University of Georgia with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science.
You can check out her blog at www.atlantaparalegalservices.com.
We’d like to thank Misty for taking the time out of her busy schedule to share these fabulous insights with all of us at The Paralegal Society! It’s always fantastic when a person (okay, a brilliant paralegal) gives words to things we all know to be true in paralegal land. Here’s to you, my fellow party planners, tech geeks, copy machine fixers and hand holders! You are not alone.
Our question to you is this: What other non-legal skills help you run the dog and pony show…strike that…I mean attorney and paralegal show – at your firm? Is there another category we should all add to our paralegal repertoires? Enough said – now go hit that comment button and sound off, TPS readers!