Being a paralegal can be exciting. It can also be frustrating, scary, and even confusing for paralegals of all experience levels. Judges, court officials, attorneys (our supervising counsel and even opposing counsel), other paralegals, and clients all rely on us and expect us to have knowledge about certain things. Although you learn a lot while you’re completing your paralegal education program, a lot of what you need to know comes from working as a paralegal. Often, it leaves new paralegals feeling unprepared and overwhelmed.
Many new paralegals don’t want to ask for help because they want to seem like professionals. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help from more experienced paralegals or other law office employees. We all started in the law field at one point. We’ve been where you are.
Even experienced paralegals may have questions. Often, answers are found easier for this segment of paralegals because of the length of time we’ve spent performing research on various subjects. Yet, looking for answers can be time consuming.
So, that’s why this list exists: to give you the resources you need. You’ll save time, learn something new, and become a better paralegal!
Paralegal Today is a hard copy and digital magazine devoted to paralegals and legal assistants. On their website, you can read past issues and even subscribe. Because the magazine focuses on our profession, they cover various subjects related to law office life, our needs, and discuss hot topics such as ethics. The website even has a legal news feed to help you stay up-to-date.
Another unique feature of Paralegal Today is their listserv. You can sign up for free to be part of their listserv even if you are still a student. You may want to do this from a free email account as the listserv can be busy and create a lot of email. Always remember to practice good netiquette.
Your State Court Website
Yes, really. If you’re a new paralegal, you may not know that your state court (district court) website is teeming with information. From finding state laws to finding information on how to format certain documents, you should definitely refer to this website if you have questions related to state law (but remember to never give another person legal advice, including your family and friends).
Also, if your law office represents people in the midst of appeals, it is important that you can locate the website for the appeals court in your state (including your Supreme or Superior court). It will provide you with valuable information related to how you should format the documents as well as how many copies you should file with the court.
Online Legal Dictionary
There are several online legal dictionaries online. My favorite is provided by Law.com. In addition to looking up the definition of legal terms that are unfamiliar to you, you can also use it to help you form a succinct explanation of a term that clients don’t understand. It can also help you ensure that you don’t misspell any legal terms that you don’t use very often.
Legal Research Websites
You may or may not be given access to the paid legal research resources in your law office. If you are given access, it is important that you really understand how to use them. Those websites are very expensive. If you’d like to minimize your use of paid sites or if you don’t have access to paid sites, there are some good starting points for free legal research available to you online.
- Your state court website.
- Google Scholar.
- The Public Library of Law (plol.org).
- Legal aid websites for your state.
- Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute (law.cornell.edu).
- The ‘Lectric Law Library (lectlaw.com)
There are many other fantastic resources available to you online and even for smartphones. Do some looking around and bookmark the sites that you think will be useful for you. You may want to compile a Word document of resources to save and share with others who may need them. Happy searching!