While law firms and corporate legal departments are actively hiring legal support professionals, the nature of these jobs is evolving in response to changes within the field. Roles are becoming more complex as employers require staff to perform more demanding legal and administrative tasks.
As a result, hiring managers are looking for versatile, tech-savvy candidates who possess highly specialized skills. Read on to learn about the most in-demand skill sets for today's paralegal jobs and legal assistant jobs.
Employers are particularly interested in candidates with more than five years of experience in legal support, but those with expertise in niche areas can also make a strong impression when applying for entry-level paralegal jobs. Law firms are especially interested in job seekers with a deep understanding of litigation, while corporate legal departments are looking for legal support professionals familiar with compliance and regulatory work.
As technology continues to rapidly transform the legal field, employers are looking for legal support candidates with advanced technical skills. These positions require competency in Microsoft Office as well as litigation support, billing and case management programs such as Summation, Relativity and TrialDirector. Employers are particularly interested in filling paralegal jobs with candidates who are familiar with eDiscovery software such as Concordance. A candidate trained in these programs who also keeps up with the latest in technology and litigation software will have a leg up on the competition.
In the litigation practice area, today’s paralegals are taking on the duties of yesterday’s junior-level associates, including interviewing witnesses, preparing trial presentations and conducting legal research. Also increasing common in litigation is the hybrid legal support position, combining the tasks of paralegal and legal secretary roles. These new responsibilities require exceptional writing skills and the ability to draft effective motions, briefs and contracts in a clear and persuasive manner. Paralegals must also be proficient with legal research databases such as Westlaw and LexisNexis.
Expanded responsibilities mean legal support professionals now spend even more time dealing directly with clients, which requires outstanding communication and customer service skills. Problem solvers and critical thinkers are standout candidates to employers because these skills are vital to paralegals acting as liaisons between a lawyer, his or her clients, and other parties involved in litigation. Fluency in both English and another language also helps.
Other soft skills
Legal assistant jobs are more demanding than ever, and a lawyer-to-assistant ratio of 5-to-1 is common. With so many tasks to complete, legal support professionals must possess superior time management and organizational skills. This requires anticipating the needs of lawyers and clients and constantly looking for new ways to streamline processes and work more efficiently.
The role of legal support professionals within law firms is evolving. Candidates need to update their skill sets, no matter what their tenure. Whether you’re an experienced legal assistant or just now seeking entry-level paralegal jobs, an emphasis on honing special skills and technological savvy will help you land the position you want.
Looking for paralegal jobs? A good place to get started is Robert Half Legal’s job search website.