If you’re still in school or if you’ve just graduated, you’re probably thinking about your future as a paralegal. What does it take to be a successful paralegal? The closer you get to graduation and begin to look for work as a paralegal, the more you will wonder whether you’re cut out to work in the legal environment. After all, you’re going to juggle multiple projects and likely take on multiple roles depending on the size of the law firm that you work with. Here are 3 ways that you can set yourself up for success as a paralegal.
Realize That the Interview Goes Both Ways
When you’re being interviewed for a paralegal or legal assistant position (since in some areas the terms are used on an interchangeable basis), you may feel like you’re being put on the hot seat. So many questions to answer. You’ll probably worry if you’re giving the right answer. Keep in mind that the interview goes both ways. You should also have questions for the firm member who is interviewing you. At the end of the interview, you’ll be asked, “Do you have any questions?” Don’t succumb to shaking your head no. Be prepared. Come up with at least two questions before the interview. One of the best ways that you can do this is by checking out the firm’s website and any social media profiles controlled by the firm. One of the best questions you can ask is:
“What have former paralegals done to succeed in this position?”
The beauty and power of this question is in the way that you are showing the interviewer that you really do care about doing a good job as a paralegal. You’re asking to learn about some of the best things that former paralegals have done. Then you will have first-hand information on what you should strive to accomplish in this position.
Decide If You Want to Get Certified
While there’s no requirement for paralegals to sit for certification, it can be beneficial to your career. If you spend time looking at the paralegal jobs listed in your local bar journal, newspaper, or even on Craigslist, you may see that quite a few firms may have a preference of hiring someone with a paralegal certification. Some states offer state certification. You could also choose to get certified through NALA or through NFPA.
Improve Your Personal and Professional Skills
There’s never a bad time to begin to improve on your personal and professional skills. Often, when you improve professional skills you’ll notice that your personal life will also improve. Even if you don’t have a lot of paralegal experience, you could be hired and quickly become a trusted member of the team because of the professional skills that you have.
Never, ever make the mistake of thinking that because you finished a paralegal education program that you don’t have to continue your education. Actually, some states either have a requirement for paralegals to take CLE or they, at the very least, strongly recommend it. Watch for CLE opportunities and also look for opportunities to improve on the following skills:
- Analytical skills.
- Communication skills.
- Computer skills.
- Organizational skills.
Being ready for your interview, continuing your education as a paralegal, and working on both your personal and professional skills are some of the best ways to set yourself up for a successful career as a paralegal!