Being a paralegal means you have a lot of responsibility. You have to know how the legal system works, the specifics of every case, and how to make the impossible possible. While you serve your firm and clients, you also have to serve yourself and consider your career goals.
To ensure you stay on the track toward advancement in the field, we’ve curated 11 tips to help you reach your goals.
No matter where you are in your career, you can always learn new things and develop new skills. By embracing a growth mindset, it’s possible to become more effective in your role, which can lead to advancement in your paralegal career.
There are several ways you can foster continuous learning. You can finish or begin a new degree program. You can also choose to focus on specific training that can help you transition to a new legal specialty. The National Association for Legal Support Professionals (NALS) offers specialty certifications for paralegals in 21 areas. Those include bankruptcy, business, civil litigation, employment law, family law, and more.
The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) offers a broad portfolio of educational classes, including leadership development. These resources and targeting prepare paralegals for managing teams.
By pursuing these types of learning, you make yourself more valuable to your organization and enrich your skills for the future.
Technology is critical to every industry, and its adoption in the legal field is accelerating. These tools help paralegals be more productive, streamline workflows, and automate manual tasks. With the right tools in place, it’s possible to work smarter, not harder.
There’s a wide range of legal tech, from e-discovery software to practice management to activity-specific platforms such as Proof. To hone your legal tech skills, you can earn a certificate in legal technology from the National Society for Legal Technology (NSLT). They also have a specific class on eDiscovery technology. Other ways to become proficient in legal tech are trainings the software company provides and courses through universities and community colleges.
We built Proof to help paralegals serve legal documents nationwide as efficiently as possible. With Proof, you can reclaim all the time you previously spent searching for process servers and put it toward accomplishing more in your day.
Communication skills are critical when it comes to a successful legal career. By improving your written and verbal communication skills, you can become a more effective paralegal.
You communicate in many ways to various stakeholders. From official letters to status updates with clients, each type of communication is unique. When you work to strengthen your communication skills, you can identify areas of weakness and work toward conveying messages in the right tone and manner.
Becoming a better communicator requires developing skills. Through NALA, you can take a free class on communication. There are other specialty classes, as well. Pryor Learning has specific classes on email and memo writing and proofing.
Consider the edX self-paced Communication Skills and Teamwork class. The University of Michigan Law offers a course through Coursera on Writing and Editing: Word Choice and Word Order.
Remember, practice makes perfect. Next time you find yourself in a tricky conversation, try to put yourself in your counterpart’s shoes and see things from their perspective.
If there were no limitations or barriers, what would your ideal job be? Visualizing what it would look like is the first step to developing a career path. Once you have determined this, you can chart the course to get there. That will include skill sets, experience, and education you need. If you know where you want to go, planning for the future isn’t so overwhelming.
Whenever someone asks for help—whether it’s a superior, a colleague, or even a direct report—don’t be afraid to say “yes” as often as possible, assuming you have the bandwidth and expertise to offer the support. Often, we hold ourselves back from saying “yes” because of worries about stepping on toes or not having all the answers.
If someone asks you for help, they genuinely believe you can offer it. So, believe in yourself too. Being a resource to others can increase the chances of recognition for your efforts. It will also enhance your confidence.
Here’s an easy way to impress that doesn’t require money or hours of work: Show up on time. This simple act demonstrates your dedication and work ethic. All other things being equal, would you rather work with someone who’s always there on time or someone who's late to meetings and appointments? Most are going to answer the former.
Being on time isn’t just about not wasting other people’s time. The legal field is time-sensitive and full of deadlines. If you’re punctual and prepared for every meeting, it further demonstrates your reliability.
Being organized isn’t just for the Marie Kondos of the world. It’s a key attribute that most successful people have. It’s also not as simple as having a neat desk. Organizational skills help you manage your mind and everything else. Learning to be more organized starts with developing ways to keep things easy to access. Even if you’re prone to misplace things, you can employ digital tools, such as project management software, to make it easier. The better organized you become, the more efficient you’ll be.
Another tip for advancing your career is to network with your peers. Joining a paralegal organization is an excellent way to do this. The National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) and the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) are two organizations to consider.
By joining these groups, you’ll hear new ideas, have access to educational opportunities, and stay abreast of the latest legal tech tools that can save you time.
Additionally, you’ll be able to build your personal network. Someone you meet through an organization could help you land your dream job in the future.
If you love your job and are ready to expand your opportunities, starting your own business could be your next move. Your skills are in high demand, so organizations and firms are looking for freelance paralegals.
You can begin by taking on a few extra hours a week. Over time, you might discover you can build a successful freelance business that eventually becomes your own business and a full-time job!
You are responsible for setting and reaching your career goals at the end of the day.
Establish a game plan for yourself, create goals, set dates for accomplishing these goals, and overall, make yourself and your career a priority.
If you dedicate the same amount of effort to accomplishing your goals as you do to your job every day, you’ll surely set yourself up for success.
The legal field is dynamic. There are always changes to laws, trends on the horizon, and innovation around technology. If you want to accelerate your career goals, you’ll need to stay current on what’s happening.
Make it a habit to read industry publications. That can include content that’s just for paralegals or about the wider legal industry. There are also practice-specific resources that can provide more information. Consider subscribing to these blogs and publications:
There’s no shortage of ways to develop new skills and learn new things to advance in your career. No matter where you are in your career, you can always grow. Setting and achieving goals takes time, but with hard work and determination, that dream job can be yours.
Want to learn how Proof can help make your job easier so you have more time to focus on career advancement? Request a demo today.