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5 Critical Skills that Hiring Managers Cannot Ignore When Hiring a Paralegal (and One Bonus Skill!)

Anyone involved in staffing in the legal profession knows that placing a paralegal can be a daunting task.

Whether you’re planning to staff the position with a temporary employee, a contractor, or a full-time employee, you’ll need to know how to quickly select, reject, and shortlist candidates.

You will need to choose the right staffing option before you even start your search. So you’ll also want to check out our previous post on choosing the right staffing option.

One fact is certain, though; as the legal profession continues to grow, paralegal positions will be increasingly more difficult, and expensive, to staff.

Do you want to significantly streamline the process?

This post will help educate you on the top five skills to look for in a great paralegal.

Understanding the core skill set will enable you to identify candidate resumes and shortlist applicants quicker and more efficiently. This will be true whether you’re using an automated system, like an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), or a more manual method.

So let’s get right to it. Look for these core skills in all applicants:

  • Specialized Legal
  • Technical
  • Communications/Writing
  • Soft Skills
  • Organizational
  • Keep Reading…

In today’s hyper-competitive world of workforce staffing, specialized skills are in high demand. This is especially true in the legal and healthcare fields.

Legal specializations are becoming more and more granular, but there are still several predominant specialization skills to look for in a paralegal.

These skills include:

  • Litigation
  • Contract
  • Compliance and Regulatory

You will most likely be looking for applicants that have experience with one or more of these skill sets in most of your paralegal staffing searches. Candidates with a high level of proficiency in any one of these specialties will definitely command higher compensation. So make sure you have an extremely granular understanding of your staffing requirement in the context of requisite skill sets and experience.

Ask yourself a few simple questions.

Can you afford to do some on-the-job training, or do you need someone to hit the ground running? Does a contractor make sense for a special project with a limited duration? Does the paralegal’s skill level need to span multiple specialties?

Only you and your team can answer these questions. So cover these bases upfront. Know your job requirement intimately and select the proper staffing option prior to the search.

In today’s world, technical skills are a must.

There are different kinds and different levels of technical skills, however. So let’s start with the basics. Any candidate should have a high level of competency with Google and Microsoft tools like Word, Excel, Docs, Sheets, etc.

In addition, specialized tech skills might include case management software tools such as Relativity, Summation, TrialDirector, or other related legal software applications. Look for experience with e-discovery tools and research databases as well. High levels of proficiency with online tools like LexisNexis and Westlaw are “must-haves.”

Communication and writing skills are foundational for paralegals.

Paralegals will be working with your internal legal team, external contractors and legal partners, advisors, clients, etc. Strong technical and communication skills are the quintessential “one-two punch” to look for in a candidate.

Paralegals can be your primary communications interface to your clients and partners. They can also serve as your trusted, highly valued customer service agent. Be prepared with some pre-screening skills tests and ask for some examples of the candidate’s work product. This will be instrumental in the pre-screening process.

So what exactly are soft skills? Let’s do a quick refresher since these skills can be “make or break” with paralegals.  

We couldn’t say it better than Wikipedia:

“Soft skills are a combination of people skills, social skills, communication skills,  character or personality traits, attitudes, mindsets, career attributes, social intelligence, and emotional intelligence quotients, among others, that enable people to navigate their environment, work well with others, perform well, and achieve their goals with complementing hard skills.”

Soft skills can be the deciding factor in your hiring process. Different positions will demand different levels of interaction with internal and external personnel, teams, etc. Make sure you’re giving appropriate weight to these highly valued skills in your well-architected job description.

You cannot overemphasize the importance of organizational skills in the world of paralegal staffing.

 Attorney to paralegal staff ratios tend to be in the range of four or five to one. 

This workforce-to-work ratio can create an extremely demanding workload for a paralegal. The legal world is an information-intensive environment. Information is contained in documents, databases, contracts, exhibits, etc.

Paralegals must be able to effectively manage, access, and utilize massive amounts of information. They must also have the ability to quickly access and present this information to teams and individual team members, both internally and externally.

And now for the bonus skill!

 Drum roll, please…

Culture, culture, culture. It can be difficult to quantify the value of a cultural fit within your firm. Only you and your team understand the social, intellectual, and emotional aspects of your corporate culture. Weigh this accordingly in your hiring process. It is probably more important than you might think.

Your paralegal staff can be a huge asset or a liability to your firm. Paralegals are becoming much more involved with partners and clients directly. They can be the face of your firm in the role of day-to-day communications liaison and customer service agent.

Give appropriate weight to each of these skills in the context of your work requirement.

Every staffing requirement has its own nuances. This skills list is not intended to be exhaustive by any means, but it will definitely help you in your hiring process when used in the proper context.

Use your staffing agency partner in this process whenever possible.

They are experts at defining and verifying skill sets, writing job descriptions, using automation and managed staffing services, etc.

Contact Patel Consultants Corporation Today

Whatever you’re up against in your staffing requirement, we’ve probably seen it before. Get in touch with us today!