What Is a Litigation Paralegal? (With Essential Skills)
By Indeed Editorial Team
Published September 18, 2022
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
Lawyers receive support from various team members who are all essential to their success during a trial. Paralegals use their education and extensive knowledge of the legal system to assist lawyers when preparing for cases. Understanding what a litigation paralegal is and what skills you can develop to excel in this legal profession can help you advance your career. In this article, we define what a litigation paralegal is, explore essential skills for a paralegal to include on a resume, and review the typical job duties for this position in the workforce.
What is a litigation paralegal?
A litigation paralegal is a legal professional who assists a lawyer by managing many of the details of a case as it progresses through the various phases of the legal system. The paralegal may help by drafting documents, preparing depositions, or assisting at a trial. Trials are extensive endeavours for a lawyer. It's essential that they have the support of a paralegal to ensure they can give their client the best possible representation.
A paralegal ensures a lawyer has all the documents and research they require to be successful in court. Paralegals can help in court by organizing the documents, taking notes, and providing the lawyer with information as they require it.
Essential skills for a resume
The following is a list of essential skills that you can develop and list on your resume to impress hiring managers and receive an invitation to interview for this role:
Ability to work under pressure
As a paralegal, there can be pressure from the lawyer you're working with or the firm you work for to perform well. Being able to handle stress and work under pressure is essential to this position. Knowing how to adjust to increased duties and deadlines can help you manage your stress and maintain a healthy mental state while at work. Including this skill and examples on your resume can demonstrate an understanding of this role's work environment.
As a paralegal working for a litigation lawyer, you may be handling multiple tasks, and the expectation may be that you have a complete understanding of each document and when the lawyer may require them during a case. Being organized, both with your time and physical documents and tasks, can help you thrive in this position. You can set reasonable expectations of what you can accomplish in a day and how much time you require to complete each task to create a more efficient schedule.
Having a comprehensive organizational strategy and filing system can help you provide the best assistance possible for a lawyer. You may have many crucial documents under your care, and it's essential that you understand where they are and when you may want to present them.
As technology has become a larger part of society, it has also become more helpful for paralegals to have strong digital literacy. E-discovery has become a large part of the legal system. Much of the information that a paralegal oversees may come to them from a text message, e-mail, or be in a large digital database. Understanding current technology and being willing to learn new technology as it develops can help you be a more efficient paralegal. If you're able to use the latest messaging system or digital database, it can make it easier for you to do research and for you to keep other information organized.
Strong communication skills
Both written and verbal communication are important in many jobs, including in a paralegal position. You may create a variety of documents, such as technical legal documents and summaries of your research. It's helpful to be able to follow the strict format for the legal documents and to be able to communicate the findings of your research efficiently and effectively.
Being able to convey information verbally is important as lawyers and other members of the legal team often discuss various aspects of the case at length. Being able to converse effectively about these details can help make you a more valuable paralegal.
As a paralegal, a significant part of your job may involve conducting research for upcoming cases. This research can include searching for legal precedent, researching the evidence on the case, or determining what documents the courts may require. Understanding how to use keywords to find the best results, the ability to summarize information, and knowing where to look for information can help you excel in the legal profession.
Attention to detail
Working in the legal field can require you to be detail-oriented. Many legal processes or documents require you to follow a specific format or set of instructions. It's also essential that you include all the necessary details of the case in the documents you prepare. Being attentive to details can help you when preparing legal forms and makes it easier to produce error-free work. By focusing on the details, you can prevent or identify mistakes that may have a significant impact on the outcome of a court case.
Ability to multitask
As a paralegal, a lawyer may require you to complete many different tasks at the same time. They may ask you to conduct research, prepare a deposition, and attend a trial to assist them. Being able to multitask can help you stay organized while still completing all the required jobs. It can also make it easier to handle those various duties without becoming overwhelmed. This can improve how efficient you are at your job and can help you advance within the legal profession.
The following is a list of typical duties that you may perform in this legal profession:
Drafting court documents
There are many documents that a lawyer may ask a paralegal to draft for use in court. Depositions, pleadings, and motions are examples of documents that a paralegal can compose. Preparing documents for court is important, as each document can affect the outcome of a case. Lawyers often delegate this duty to the paralegal so they can focus on developing other aspects of the case. Lawyers also typically rely on the paralegal to file the prepared document alongside all the other essential pieces of the case.
Performing administrative duties
Paralegals can also do a variety of administrative duties while working with a lawyer. These duties can include organizing their schedule, prioritizing case files, arranging court appearances, and keeping track of various deadlines. As a paralegal, your organizational skills can be a key asset when completing administrative tasks, as a lawyer may depend on you entirely to keep them on schedule and ensure cases continue to progress.
Executing legal research
Legal research can encompass a variety of duties. It can include pre-claim investigations, researching case law, searching discovery indexes, and gathering more relevant information from a wide variety of sources. Building a legal defence or prosecuting a case requires an enormous amount of information, and legal teams do their best to ensure that there are no gaps in the cases they build. This makes legal research essential, as it can help establish the foundation of the case.
Helping with witness preparation
Witness preparation is important, as many witnesses may be nervous about appearing in court or need help with how to tell their story. Witness preparation involves coaching a witness about what to expect when they're on the stand and how they can best deliver their account of an event.
As a paralegal, you can help a witness be ready by reviewing the list of questions the defence and opposition lawyers may ask and by reviewing words or phrases they may want to avoid. Preparing a witness can make them more effective and able to present their answers with confidence during the trial.
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