Posts Tagged ‘reliability’

Top Qualities of a Great Paralegal

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

A recent post on the NYCPA LinkedIn discussion board linked to an article entitled “Top 10 Qualities of a Great Paralegal.” The article lists and explains these ten items:

1. Analytical Skills
2. Communication Skills
3. Detail Oriented
4. Ethical Judgment
5. Great Writer
6. Interest in the Law
7. Interpersonal Qualities
8. Organizational Qualities
9. Research Skills
10. Tech Savvy

I agree that all of these are attributes that every good paralegal has, but I’d likely not classify all of them as “qualities,” but as “skills” as some of them are listed. And it is likely that my “top ten” list would be different. Certainly I would add to the list. In terms of skills I would at least add the basic skills of time, workload, calendar, client, and attorney relationship management to the list – the basic set of skills that form the basis for The Empowered Paralegal: Effective, Efficient, and Professional. For example, even the best writer and the best researcher are of little value to a law office if she cannot get the work done on time. In terms of attributes I consider qualities, those such as integrity, reliability, and the other components of professionalism come higher up the list than some of those in this list. Again, a great writer and researcher is a problem rather than an asset to a firm if he is unreliable or lacks integrity. In the end a law firm can teach improved writing and researching skills if necessary to a reliable paralegal with integrity but can do little to improve the reliability of a person with little integrity.

Committed To Do Lists and Integrity

Friday, August 24th, 2012

In The Empowered Paralegal: Effective, Efficient, and Professional workload organization and management tools such as “To Do” Lists are discussed extensively. Using a “To Do” list is only helpful if there is sense to the list, so it is important to prioritize. One aspect of this is making eliminate as many items as possible through delegation and other means. In her most recent newsletter Vicki Voison, The Paralegal Mentor, puts an interesting spin on this in a feature entitled, “What to Do vs. Need to Do.” Vicki distinguishes between those things you are committed to doing and those you “want to do” this way:

Your “want to do” list. The items on your “want to do” list are those that you have either chosen to do or feel the need to do. This could include a home improvement project, taking a class, writing an article, etc.

While your personal life or your career may be impacted if you do not do these things, it is your choice. Also, this list is not prioritized so when you decide to do something on it, you may end up choosing a task that will give you a higher return over another task on your list. Also, this list is always subject to change.

Your “committed to” list. Your “committed to” list is made up of the things you have agreed to do for someone or something: write an article, serve as an officer, plan an event, obtain a speaker, etc.

The things you have committed to are critical to your career success. If you do not do them, you lose credibility. If you lose credibility, you lose trust. If you lose trust, your career could be stopped in its tracks.


I started this post quite awhile ago and have since lost the link to Vicki’s article. If I find it, I’ll update this post. At the time I probably intended to make a different point than I am making now. Here I want to emphasize the importance of Vicki’s statement, ” If you do not do them, you lose credibility. If you lose credibility, you lose trust. If you lose trust, your career could be stopped in its tracks.”

As discussed at length in The Empowered Paralegal, a good part of professionalism for a paralegal involves “soft factors” – factors that cannot be measured by billable hours, documents produced, or even high praise from clients for work well done. Integrity, reliability, credibility are crucial. We (or at least I) talk a lot about managing time, workload, dockets, clients, and the attorney/paralegal relationship, but we are seldom interested in efficiency or effectiveness just for the sake of efficiency and effectiveness. The importance of tips like Vicki’s on To Do Lists lies not just in their ability to increase our efficiency and defectiveness, but in the way that translates into maintaining our integrity, reliability, and credibility.  The focus, in the end, is not just on what we do, but on who we are.

Ad: Professionalism is a must

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

Our local paper (yes print media still exists) carries this ad:

Law firm seeks paralegal that can handle additional secretary and receptionist duties. Ideal candidate will have ability to organziae, prioritize and complete tasks under time constraints. Must be multi-tasked oriented and able to work in a fact paced envrionment. Excellent writing, verbal and communication skills. Professionalism is a must.

Of course, this ad interests me because it confirms my contentions that (1) those paralegal who demonstrate professionalism with control the market, and (2) professionalism is more than a set of skills. Thus, the empowered paralegal is one who is effective, efficient and professional.

This leads to the real challenge – determining just what professionalism is. In some ways it is like art and pornography – you can’t define it, but you know it when you see it. In this blog and in my book I attempt to shed some light on its primary ingredients.  It is, quite clearly, more than simply a manner of dress. I frequently point out to students that the very phrase “I dressed like a professional” implies that there is something more to professionalism than a good suit, clean hands, and a haircut. If one can “dress like a professional” and still not be professional, then dress alone does not make a professional.

As discussed in The Empowered Paralegal and throughout this blog, the ingredients of professionalism include reliability, trustworthiness, work ethic, honesty, attitude, self-reflection, standards, personal integrity, the ability to think ahead, and inter-personal skills especially in dealing with clients and attorneys.

Initial results of the Professionalism Anthology are encouraging and I hope that publication will ultimately lead to a better understanding of professionalism in the paralegal profession. In the meantime I will contact the firm that place this ad to see what it means by “Professionalism is a must.”

Reliability and Professionalism

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

One prominent aspect of professionalism is reliability.  Here are some ways to show reliability:

  • Be where you are supposed to be when you are supposed to be there. While everyone runs into traffic jams, flat tires and the like, reliable persons are not habitually late or absent. Many instances of tardiness or absence could be avoided by proper planning. Do not leave the office early just because your attorney is in court and no one will notice or run personal errands on your way to deliver a brief, deed or contract across town unless you have discussed it in advance.
  • Complete your work on time. The excuses used in school will carry little weight with an attorney, less with a client and none at all with a court. Plan your work so it will be done on time even if something goes wrong.
  • Avoid making promises you can not keep. Be honest about what you can and cannot do, and how long it will take to do it.  I will discuss dealing with unrealistic expectations on the part of the attorney in another post, but the paralegal can help in this regard if he or she avoids creating those expectations on the part of co-workers, attorneys and clients.