Empowerment Basics

In addition to substantive legal knowledge, the  effective, empowered paralegal knows and utilizes these essential skills:

  • The effective, empowered paralegal manages time well. Generally, a lawyer sells legal services, rather than a product. The value of those services is measured by the amount of time spent fulfilling a client’s legal needs. It is essential, therefore, that both the paralegal and the attorney organize themselves and their time to maximize efficiency. In addition, they must keep track of, and bill for, their time in a way that makes sense for the law office and the clients.
  • The effective, empowered paralegal manages the calendar well. Missed deadlines result in dissatisfied clients, malpractice claims, and attorney disciplinary procedures. It is essential that both the attorney and the paralegal be aware of upcoming deadlines and have a system in place to meet those deadlines without last-minute pressures that increase the likelihood of mistakes.
  • The effective, empowered paralegal manages files well. The best crafted deeds, contracts, wills and pleadings are worthless if they cannot be found when needed. None of them can even be created if the necessary information cannot be located in a timely manner, or was never obtained in the first place. It is essential that the both the paralegal and the attorney have a system in place, and use that system, for organizing, identifying, indexing and tracking files and the materials contained in the files.
  • The effective, empowered paralegal manages clients well. The client is part of the legal team. Without the client there is no need for either the paralegal or the attorney and no money to fund the law office. However, the client is the member of the team who knows least about the law and her role in the team. It is essential that the paralegal and the attorney keep the client informed about what is being done for her and why, and what she needs to do for the outcome to be successful.
  • The effective, empowered paralegal manages the paralegal’s relationship with the attorney well within the legal team. Both the paralegal and attorney must know, and respect, their roles and those of the other; their abilities and those of the other. It is essential that the paralegal understand what the attorney expects of him and the attorney understand what the paralegal can and cannot do for her.
  • The effective, empowered paralegal knows and applies the principles of professionalism and thereby gains recognition of his status as a professional.
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12 Comments

  • Joy Gerardi says:

    Thank you for your information on this site. I have recently entered a fourteen week paralegal internship (on a whim!) and have been stumbling to get an understanding of the procedures. If you could point me in the direction of any online “cheats” or Cliff’s Notes, if you will, on basic paralegal practices, I would GREATLY appreciate it. I will continue to puruse your blog….From what I’ve seen, it’s very interesting. Thank you!

  • R. E. Mongue says:

    Joy, I am not aware of any Cliff Notes for law office procedures as there is no real substitute for study and experience. However, there are a number of useful books on the market, including “The Empowered Paralegal.” If you have specific questions, please feel free to contact me or post it here!

  • Jennifer says:

    I’ve worked as a legal secretary when I was much younger. But, the guy I worked for was pure jerk. He even had a judge order him to anger management classes. I stepped away from the legal field after that because I didn’t want to work for another hothead. He was disbarred a few years later. Now I have gained strong secretarial skills and have a job with another attorney. Although I am a huge help to him with my administrative and strong organizational skills, as well as being tech savvy, I need to be brought up to speed on legal procedures. Once I gain the big picture on how certain motions, petitions, pleadings and such are put into action, I will be able to help my boss more where it matters. Can you give me any insight or advice on this?

  • Debbie Long says:

    Just discovered this blog. Looks pretty interesting. My comment to both individuals above, without knowing your practice area or geographical area, is to look for CLE courses that cover the basics for your particular practice area in your jurisdiction. You can take the same ones that are offered to attorneys, whether via live seminar or an online workshop, and the cost for paralegals is usually discounted. (Check whether your employer will pay.) You should also look into professional associations for legal assistants and paralegals in your area. Sometimes they offer free CLE courses to their members, and they often like to hear from their members as to the types of seminars they would be interested in attending.

  • Just found your site in 2011! My site is not paralegal related but I live in suburb of Chicago IL. I raised my daughter as a single mother for 10 years and then put myself through college to get my AA in Paralegal. I graduated with 3.55. The only reason it was not a 4.0 is because I had to move and it did affect my grades that term. Either way, I went to college from 2007-2009: I did iternships as well. I worked for a Probate office for 6 months. What I don’t get in IL, no lawyer is willing to give me a chance to work. I have pure passion and that alone should be admired. I love law. I went through my own BK in 2003 and fought for my rights in IL child support case. In IL I cannot give legal advice,,,, blah blah you know the 5 things…anyhow…I wish I could help others with legal issues but I am not supervised by an attorney. So, I am working in Security and being a barber and it sucks when all you think about is LAW. If you have any ideas here I’d LOVE IT. Your new member, Jackie Paulson, USA, IL

  • SueAnn says:

    Jackie – why don’t you seek out larger firms for employment. Also watch for places like the Insurance giants. I work for one as I am working my way through school after 20 years in the profession. Farmers Insurance posts jobs on Monster.com and I am sure others do as well. Also, find your local county bar association and sign up with the staffing service they use. In this economy it is difficult to find employment in our field, but it is there. I believe that you will have better luck with the bigger firms. Take your time and choose wisely.

  • Sharon Mork says:

    Thank you for the website, articles, and posts. I have worked in the legal field for over 20 years now in real estate. I have a niece that is taking paralegal courses, and I am thinking of purchasing one of your books for her as she begins her paralegal career. This site, and others, are great tools for paralegals (young and old).

  • R. E. Mongue says:

    Thanks for your comments, Sharon. I, of course, highly recommend my books as gifts for praticing and prospective paralegals! [Note to attorneys: I recommend them as an addition to more substantive recognition and acknowledgment of their contribution to your practice, NOT as a substitute. After all, you benefit from their becoming better, more professional paralegals as much as they do!]

    The first, “The Empowered Paralegal: Effective, Efficient, and Professional” is likely the best for your niece.

  • Dave Irwin says:

    Mr. Mongue, I’ve been appreciating the blog and look forward to reading and recommending your books. This career is difficult and often misunderstood, and the work you’re doing to help bring professionalism to the career is commendable. Please keep up the great work.

  • Joy, if you want a cheat sheet, the best thing you can do is to create your own. Not only will it be a useful tool, but it will help you memorize and become familiar with the civil procedure and local rules. I have a Brief Cheat Sheet and one for the Bluebook, and I update them every time the rules change. Updating the cheat sheet is just as important as creating it, and will help you stay on top of recent changes. I’m a huge fan of checklists for docketing or just about anything. Even so, sometimes there is no substitute for going to the original source. Make it your business to keep an eye on all rule changes. Before you know it, you will be the “go to” person in your office!

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