Paralegals are vital for the success of any law firm. In fact, they’re often the backbone of the organization. A skilled paralegal will have a thorough understanding of the law, and will be responsible for managing settlements, handling court filings, doing legal research, and assisting lawyers with various other important tasks.
However, to do their job effectively, they must have a robust set of skills related to technology—in addition to their understanding of the law. So what are the most important tech skills for a paralegal to master?
The Most Important Tech Skills to Master
If you want to get ahead in your career as a paralegal, these are some of the most important technology-related skills 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 online available to help you learn and remember the basics, but only with practice will you be able to consider yourself a true master. You’ll start by learning things like functions, formulas, and shortcuts, and in time, you’ll be able to create your own templates for a diverse array of legal purposes.
- Word processing. While it’s one of the simpler tech skills on this list, you shouldn’t neglect the importance of mastering the use of a basic word processor like Microsoft Word. As a paralegal, you’ll be typing many documents, creating and utilizing templates, and redesigning and repositioning documents to make them more visually appealing. It’s important that you’re able to quickly and easily handle these tasks. On a similar note, consider increasing your typing speed so you can become even more efficient.
- File management. As a paralegal, you’ll often be responsible for keeping track of a multitude of different files. You’ll be responsible for maintaining and organizing the records of the law firm you’re working for, including things like templates and internal notes. You’ll also be responsible for managing information related to clients. It’s important that you remain as organized as possible, and can access files whenever you need them.
- Research. Depending on the nature of the case at hand, you might be responsible for conducting legal research. You’ll need to be able to look up laws and previous rulings as quickly and efficiently as possible, as well as other types of data. This means you’ll need to become familiar with a wide variety of different websites and research platforms, as well as basic search engines.
- Phones/VoIP. Your law firm may make use of a VoIP system or a more conventional phone system. Either way, you’ll spend a significant chunk of your time on the phone and dealing with phone-related tech issues. You should become familiar with the basics of VoIP, and learn how to troubleshoot basic issues (such as latency or interruptions). This is especially useful if you can learn the specific system your law firm is using.
- Scheduling. Scheduling is a basic skill, but it becomes more complicated when you’re juggling the calendars of multiple lawyers, paralegals, and other people in your law firm. You’ll need to become familiar with a shared calendar app, and be able to manage many different individuals’ schedules simultaneously. Familiarity with technology is important to improve efficiency, but you’ll also need some ability to prioritize and multitask.
- Electronic document submission. Many courts now rely heavily on eFiling—the process of submitting documents electronically. In most situations, this will be a straightforward process, but it still pays to become familiar with these different filing systems. You don’t want to be responsible for electronic document submission, only to find out the process is confusing and unfamiliar.
- Cybersecurity. Cybersecurity is a complex field, but you don’t have to be an expert to master the basics. If you follow simple best practices, like choosing strong passwords, only using secure networks, and avoiding falling for schemes, you can increase the security of the entire firm.
Improving Your Tech Skills
Improving your skills with technology usually requires a blend of different approaches. For example, you can read about these skills and watch videos to improve your understanding, or you can attend an online class to learn more in a specific area. However, you’ll also have to practice regularly—often with the support or supervision of someone more experienced than you.
In any case, the more time and energy you put into improving your technology skills, the more successful you’ll be as a paralegal. You’ll be able to improve your resume and your reputation, and carry out a wider range of tasks for your law firm of choice. If you’re interested in career development, tech skill cultivation should be one of your top priorities.