Advice for New Paralegals

My advice? Definitely that “flattery will get you everywhere!”

– Marie

Make sure to have writing materials on you at all times.  This will enable you to take notes on everything and I mean everything. If any of your coworkers show you even the smallest detail about a program used in the office or even where certain types of office supplies are kept, you will be glad to have that information to refer to later.

Stay positive and be confident. Your attorney and coworkers will appreciate the good attitude. Regarding confidence, even if you aren’t, at least try to seem like you are. The quote, “Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence” by Vince Lombardi really applies well in the work place. Why would anyone trust you with anything if you don’t believe you can do it?  It is going to be frustrating at first because you are going to want to be able to do everything right away, but just focus on doing what you can and doing it well.

More information is always better than less information, so always be highly detailed about everything you work on.

This is really a no brainer, but being courteous and polite to everyone you work with is really important.

Most of all though, enjoy your new job and continue learning!

— Sara Moran

Remember that you are a new paralegal. Do not beat yourself up for not knowing everything. Every law firm is different, and has its own way of doing things.

The top three pieces of advice are:

  1. Be organized;
  2. Pay attention to detail; and
  3. Listen carefully to instructions.

If you were able to graduate from Jac’s class, there is nothing you cannot do or learn! Take lots of notes. Learn the computer programs that are used in your firm. Be open minded, willing to learn, and do not take yourself too seriously. Professionalism is a must. Make time to network. Be able to separate your personal life from your professional life. There is a time and place for everything. Dress appropriately. Have a good attitude, show appreciation, and have confidence in yourself. Do not take everything personally. You must be thick skinned. Don’t be a cry baby!  Believe it or not, there is a method to Jac’s madness. You might not have realized that yet, but it’s true.  Jac did not set you up to fail; she prepared you for the legal world out here!

— Donna Morin

 

If you will be working in a firm that handles various areas of the law, it is a good idea to always take notes when you are working on something new because you will find that you will work in one area and complete the project, and not work in that area again for a few weeks. It is good to have your notes to look back for the next project. Understand your cases. Always double check your work. I like to check my work on printed paper as opposed to checking it on the computer screen before finalizing. Always click that spell check button, even on inner-office e-mails. When calling the courts for information, be courteous and friendly. You never know when you’ll need a favor. Sometimes you may talk to someone at the clerk’s office that may give you wrong information, so use your intuition; if they sound like they don’t know what they’re talking about, ask more questions to make sure you are getting correct information.

– Esther Bishop

Even if you don’t have any experience as a Paralegal, it is OK. It really is all about the way you sell yourself, play up your good qualities, work ethic, and work experience. It was really hard for me to finally find a job I really like and there were times where I was extremely frustrated and wanted to give up. Finding a job is a fulltime job, so I’d also like to say don’t give up that easily if you can’t find a job initially, it will happen. But also don’t just take any job because it’s a waste of your time, as well as the firm’s.

– Afsheen

I would say the best thing to do when starting as a fresh paralegal is to make friends with other paralegals the receptionists, even baby lawyers. They serve as as great references since attorneys give you a list of tasks they want completed and sometimes I have no idea what it means and being able to ask someone who knows, besides having to keep going back to the attorney, is a lifesaver. They show the quick ways of doing things and don’t mind reviewing your work before you turn it in. Also making lots of note on how to do little daily things so they just have to show you once, EXAMPLE how to send certified mail or forward telephone calls.

Christina Lara

 1.  Remember that your quality of work should always be the best even if

other people’s work is not.

2. Office politics rule.  You have to play (and play well, at that) whether

you want to or not.  This applies to most jobs.

3. Don’t take it personally.

4. I made a very basic table to write information down and the Project

Director said to my team, “You guys did good, I’m addicted to the

tables.”  I then said, “Thank you, I actually created that on my own.”

Always stand out in a good way and take credit.

5.  Customer service and satisfaction is important.  It’s not just for

restaurants.

– Marisa

I can’t stress how important details are in my job. My company looks to me to make sure I know the rules and regulations front and back to ensure that we cover all the details in a filing, be it a public filing with the SEC or a litigation matter, or even meeting internal deadlines and control environment reviews. I keep very detailed project lists and use Microsoft Excel and Project extensively.

– Stephanie Concelman

Advice for new Paralegals:

1.         Have a good, positive, can-do attitude.

2.         Be indispensable. You want your attorney to think he/she can’t practice law without you. Be the right and left hand.

3.         Never go into your attorney’s office without pen and paper. The one time you are just dropping off something is when a new assignment will be rattled off.

4.         When you are given an assignment go one step further than what is asked of you. For example, if you are asked to research something and print out your findings – do a little more, highlight the areas applicable, and prepare a short memo explaining your findings and any questions you have.

5.         Think outside the box. If you are given an assignment stop and think about how you would want the assignment done. A lot of assignments do not come with instructions. That is when you have to stop and think about what you are doing.

6.         Always be willing to learn. Do not turn down an assignment because you do not know how to do it. Figure it out or ask for guidance.

7.         Be organized. Your attorney will rely on you for organization.

8.         Most importantly, learn from your mistakes!

–  Jan Whaley

 

First days as a paralegal:

Starting a new job can be stressful, no matter what kind of job it is or who you’re working for. Keep in mind though that you’ve already gotten through the hardest part – the interview. You got hired and there’s a reason why, maybe even several reasons. Show them why they hired you. If you displayed certain strengths in that interview, show them what those strengths are and that you really have them. One of mine, for example, is that I’m a quick-learner and love learning new things. By day three, I was already doing many tasks on my own, and just having my trainer check my work.

On your first few days as a paralegal make sure you take lots of notes. Of course you learn what you think you need to know from Jac’s class. You do need to know that, but there’s more to it. Each firm is different and each one wants different things from their employees. Some attorneys like you to do certain tasks a specific way so you want to be sure to note what they tell you so they don’t have to say it to you twice. So my biggest piece of advice is to bring a pad of paper or notebook and a pen or two and take lots of notes from the people training you, from the attorneys, from anybody who tells you how to do your job properly.

Also, show your personality. Don’t hide away in a shell. Just like the class, you want to make friends. Your co-workers can’t get to know you if you hide away in your cubicle and don’t talk at all. I tend to be a shy person so this was kind of a struggle for me, but even I managed to become friends with several of my co-workers.

–  Chelsea Bieber

           

My advice to any recent graduate is to know that looking for a job is a full-time job. When I was job-hunting after graduation, I spent 8 hours a day working on my resume, filling out applications, cold-calling, and sending emails to contacts I had made in the field. Don’t be scared when it doesn’t happen immediately. I looked for 3 months before I found a temporary job, and then was hired on permanently after about a month. Take your internship seriously, if you are offered one. What you think might only be a two-week internship might evolve into your career! Even if it doesn’t work out that way, the firm you are interning for will provide your recommendation to your future employer (if you’ve earned it!).
Once you get hired, dress and behave professionally, and take pride in every assignment. Ask questions! Ask a million of them, but don’t ask the same one twice. This will demonstrate that you are eager to learn and also very attentive. Take notes on everything to show your dedication to learning new things and growing as a paralegal. Take any instruction you are given very seriously. Show that you are willing to do anything possible to be the very best at what you do. Nothing is too small of a task. Be grateful and show your appreciation to the people you work with that are giving you the opportunity to prove yourself when you have no experience; this is truly a gift.
 — Lauren Chlouber

My first tip for new paralegals is to make sure you have a good relationship with the office administrator or secretary. This person has often been around forever and is an unending source of legal information and procedures.  Lawyers are often out of the office or unavailable and the administrator/secretary can often answer those “who do I call to find out?”  or “how do I file?” or “where can I find?” questions. I find that being respectful and pitching in to help in crisis times can go a long way. On the other hand, a paralegal who angers the administrator/secretary by being disrespectful will soon find her work life hell. It is a tricky thing because often legal secretaries can resent a new paralegal who comes in and may make more money and have more interesting assignments but is less experienced than they are.

My second tip is to always ask questions, especially on the first days and weeks of a job. Often lawyers are extremely busy and you hate to pester them constantly with questions, but lawyers and courts are very picky, and you can’t just guess and say, “Well, this looks about right to me.” Things have to be done exactly right and you will have wasted your time and need to do it over when you could have just asked.

My third tip is about confidentiality. My dad (a lawyer) was in a completely different city (Washington DC) than where he worked (Chicago) when he heard people at a table behind him in a restaurant discussing details of a case he was working on. So crazy coincidences do happen. People know not to discuss cases in the elevators at the courthouse, but seem to think nothing of discussing them in other public places. The person in the checkout line behind you may know the

“pervert teacher who exposed himself to a 9-year-old” or “vindictive wife of a senator asking for sole custody” (made up) and be very interested in the details of their case. Some cases might seem too juicy to keep to oneself, but in my view confidentiality needs to be total.

Kathryn

As a paralegal, you must think of yourself as an extension of the lawyer/firm you are working for and consider the ramifications of your actions.  Always take the time and the extra effort to make your work complete and polished.  Positive feedback from clients resulting from your thoughtful work is a good marketing tool for the lawyers. Ask questions!  It’s always better to obtain a clear knowledge of what you need to accomplish before you get yourself into a mess of trouble.  Do it right the first time, and you’ll prevent headaches for you and your co-workers.  Don’t take anyone or anything around you for granted—take the opportunity to learn from those around you.  We all have different outlooks and opinions, and if you’re open to those perspectives, you might find a new and better way of doing something.  Just be observant and considerate!

Linda

This is what you do on your first day at a new law firm. Find the biggest, toughest looking person in the place and punch him in the face. Wait, that is the first day of jail. On your first day as a paralegal, do NOT punch anyone in the face. They tend to frown upon that sort of thing. And if you find yourself if jail, well, now you know what to do.

-Danny Vara