Picking your perfect paralegal is like choosing your doctor. You need a good blend
of education, skills, experience, and personality. Apart from all these, you should
click with them. The relationship between an attorney and a paralegal is very
special. The attorney brings in decades of experience while paralegals help them in
staying organized and looking good overall.
The prefix ‘para’ in the word ‘paralegal’ stands for “bear or beside”. So a paralegal is
someone who stays in the general vicinity of law. This description is so broad just
like the job itself, it can take so many forms. Just saying that you want a paralegal
isn’t enough, you should know how you want them to spend their time which will
help in deciding what skills they’ll need to do it. Being clear about what you’ll be
offering at the beginning of the interview process helps both parties.
Once the job description is set, you can tap into your network or connect with a
good paralegal school to call for applicants. You can also contact specific
employment agencies with experience in legal staffing. After receiving the
applications, the first step is to look for the educational background of potential
candidates. Since there are so many fly-by-night courses that promise a paralegal
certificate after the completion of the course, anyone can hand out a resume saying
they are a paralegal. Filtering applicants already familiar with legal terms, litigation
process, and general parameters of law will save you a lot of money and time in the
future. Although experienced paralegals will need better payments, they will also be
easier to train.
Interviews should be like those depositions where you want witnesses to reveal
things they are bottling up inside. Use those interview skills, start off with very light
questions to get the applicant comfortable building the pace gradually.
Unlike movies, big wins are not from a clincher question or closing argument,
rather determined through briefs and answers. And attorneys who are masters in
oral arguments are often not patient enough to write them on papers. So,
paralegals end up doing a lot of written work which makes writing a very crucial
skill for them. A paralegal who knows legal writing can be a great asset and the
cover letter of applicants can give a good picture of this skill. Alternatively, you can
also give a small writing assignment at the time of the interview process.
Another important skill to look at while interviewing is organizational skills since
attorneys don’t have time to tidy their files. Also, your paralegal will be the first
person to greet your client while they walk into your office, so they should be a
person loaded with soft skills.
At last, the best paralegals want to be a part of a legal team, not just an instruction
follower. This means that you have to be a team player too. Paralegals often
complain that attorneys are demanding, co-workers are competitive and jealous,
clients are cranky, and vendors are difficult. You can help them in navigating this
and create a good working environment for them.
If you don’t feel great about any applicant, then you should probably wait. It’s a pain
to work while being understaffed but it is a greater pain to hire the wrong person.
Eventually, you will find that special someone for your law office with the right