9 Soft Skills That are a Must for any Paralegal

What are the differences between hard and soft skills? Moreover which qualities do employers prefer more, specifically in the paralegal field? When applying for jobs, applicants come across numerous job descriptions that present a mix of both kinds of traits. Employers may want their applicants to know how to use a certain filing system, but also expect them to be highly organized, or else this hard skill will be a waste.

Hard skills are abilities that people can learn, such as coding, data analysis, second language proficiency or being able to operate a certain computer program. They also can be achievements like a higher education degree or technical certificate. These traits are most easily quantifiable on applicants’ resumes or cover letters. Many employers often prioritize these skills before realizing the absolute necessity of softer traits.

On the other hand, soft skills are challenging to showcase or recognize, especially during the application or interview process. They are typically referred to as “people” or “interpersonal” skills because they center around personal habits, attitudes, social knowledge and qualities that make people ideal to work with. Unlike being able to simply list project management on a resume, applicants must emphasize that they are flexible or motivated workers on their application and during their interview.

People talking in a boardroom

Good employers value both sets of skills equally. Employers can take time to train their new employees on certain hard skills like how to operate a certain app or computer program, but it is far more difficult to teach new employees how to be patient or kind to their co-workers. In the paralegal field, employers value both soft and hard skills on the job. Here are nine soft skills job applicants should work on and add to their resumes:

1. Communicative

Communication skills involve more than just being able to converse with clients or coworkers. As paralegals are frequently the liaison between attorneys and their clients, they must be able to offer outstanding customer service and effectively communicate their intentions and thoughts. While paralegals cannot give legal advice, they should be able to give presentations, consult with clients and fully explain what they want or need.

2. Critical thinking

This soft skill is essential for any successful paralegal. Working on cases or helping clients in difficult situations requires a certain amount of problem solving capabilities. Paralegals who establish themselves as the critical thinker will see instantaneous benefits to their office standing. Attorneys will be more likely to approach them if they have a particularly tricky situation or case. The attorneys will also send more clients their way since they know the paralegal has what it takes to handle the problem.

3. Adaptable

A break in a case or new client development can cause major workload upheaval in any law firm. What this means is that law offices are constantly moving and evolving, and paralegals must be adaptable enough to keep up. Employees who are too set in their ways or inflexible may not be as successful in the long term. Attorneys hire and need paralegals who will pivot at a moment’s notice.

4. Team player

In larger law firms or on high-profile cases, paralegals may work on big teams to get the job done. Working on a team requires a high degree of collaborative skills, such as being a strong team player. While leadership and drive are essential for any team, paralegals must also know when to take a step back and let someone else take over.

Employees who work well with others are those who not only spearhead certain efforts, but are excellent followers and monitors of team progress as well. On any given case, paralegals must work with other paralegals, attorneys, clients and court officials. This means paralegals must not only know how to communicate with all of these different team players, but keep everyone on track and on message.

5. Dependable

Attorneys want paralegals they know they can rely on to get the job done. They don’t want to worry about micromanaging certain projects or ensuring that their employees are making progress. When they hand a case or assignment to a paralegal and give a deadline, they expect the work to be done by that date. This is why it is crucial for paralegals to be deadline-driven and dependable in all the work they do.

6. Organized

Many law offices have switched to electronic filing systems, which means there is less physical paperwork paralegals must keep in order. Many paralegals are responsible for the electronic filing of various court, case and firm documents and as they will likely be working on several cases at once, they need to be highly organized and able to effectively multitask to be a team asset.

7. Conflict resolution

The field of law revolves around problem solving, which is why it is important for paralegals to possess conflict resolutions skills. From putting together the pieces in challenging cases to working with clients, conflict can arise. Paralegals should be able to effectively handle situations and keep everyone on track for success.

8. Empathetic

Being kind does not mean that there can never be problems in the workplace. Paralegals who exude empathy simply know how to relate to clients and co-workers, essentially putting themselves in their shoes. They don’t shy away from troublesome situations and actively engage with people. Employers love empathetic workers because they keep offices running smoothly and never cause problems.

9. Professionalism

As paralegals frequently interact with clients and court officials, they must be highly professional and have a firm grasp on basic business etiquette. Everything from having the right handshake to being able to make small talk are vital skills paralegals must possess. After all, one off-color joke, slip-up or rude remark will send clients packing or be detrimental for certain court cases. Therefore, paralegals must be the embodiment of professionalism.

People working as a team

If you are looking to make a career change or further your career advancement opportunities, you should consider George Washington University’s online Master’s in Paralegal Studies. As one of the few paralegal master’s degrees in the country, the program will equip current or future paralegals with the hard and soft skills, experience and knowledge they need to succeed. Contact one of our representatives today to learn more about our intensive curriculum offerings.

Sources

https://www.thebalance.com/hard-skills-vs-soft-skills-2063780

https://www.thebalance.com/list-of-soft-skills-2063770

https://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/six-soft-skills-everyone-needs-hot-jobs

https://www.roberthalf.com/legal/blog/looking-for-paralegal-jobs-employers-want-these-skills

http://www.nri-staffing.com/2014/02/07/top-4-soft-skills-employer-looks-paralegal/

http://www.myparalegalplace.com/2011/06/soft-skills-are-just-as-important-as.html

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