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The Toolkit: Essential Skills and Tools for Today's Paralegal

Published on: Nov 5, 2023

In many ways, paralegals are the backbone of a law office. They provide crucial support to lawyers through various duties, including everything from interviewing clients to drafting a legal document. As a result, paralegal work requires the paralegal to have a diverse range of skills to be successful. 

In this article, we will provide further insights into these skills and review the best options to obtain them.

Understanding the Significance of Each Skill

As a paralegal, it is crucial to have a clear understanding of what the job will entail. It is also critical to develop skills that can help you excel and make sure that you can be successful in the industry. That is why it is important to have a solid understanding of the significance of each skill required in the profession.

Research and analytical skills

Paralegals are often required by lawyers to find information to build a case. This usually requires extensive research, performing a detailed analysis, and having the analytical skills to find the necessary information to help the attorney with specific legal tasks. Paralegals often use software such as MyCase to help with these skills, as the program allows them to communicate with clients, bill, review documents, and streamline case management.

Communication and interpersonal skills

Paralegals often serve as a connection between various groups such as lawyers, clients, witnesses, court personnel, co-workers, and other business professionals. For instance, paralegals are often required to communicate with clients throughout the process, including the initial interview, the discovery process, and trial preparation. That is why having strong interpersonal skills can help a paralegal advance in their career. Furthermore, effective speaking and writing skills are essential as paralegals frequently interview clients, witnesses, and experts and communicate with people over the phone or through email.

Organization and time management skills

Having good organizational skills as a paralegal is vital for the job, as most paralegals are responsible for organizing case files, scheduling meetings, updating client information, tracking time, and billing clients using tools. To accomplish all these tasks, some paralegals use software such as Rocket Matter, a legal practice management platform with easy-to-use time and billing software. AI can also be a powerful asset, as it can help paralegals automate routine tasks, leading to improved work efficiency and a faster work pace.

Legal knowledge and technical proficiency

Paralegals must have a thorough knowledge of common legal terms and processes and a comprehensive understanding of the judicial system. A paralegal professional is often tasked with assisting other legal professionals with interpreting legal documents, explaining information to clients, and communicating with the court. That is why it is important for them to have a sound grasp of basic legal concepts.

Furthermore, paralegals may be required to use software or other technological tools for various tasks, including generating reports, recording client information, and billing. Therefore, paralegals need to be technically proficient and be able to use legal research databases, case management software, and document management systems. Proficiency in tools like Word, Excel, Westlaw, and LexisNexis can also give paralegals a competitive edge.

Ethical and professional conduct

Paralegals are expected to adhere to high ethical and professional standards. They are also required to have knowledge of ethical and professional conduct related to conflicts of interest as well as:

  • The unauthorized practice of law

  • Confidentiality rules

  • Handling funds and other related issues, such as fee agreements

  • Solicitation

  • Proper conduct in the courtroom, which often applies to a litigation paralegal

  • Communication limitations related to people outside of the law firm, including jurors and judges

  • Frivolous claims and defenses

Steps to Acquiring Essential Skills

Although there are several skills that paralegals need to have to ensure they can perform their paralegal duties, there are various ways to obtain this paralegal education and hone in on the skillsets needed to perform their role in the legal profession:

Enrolling in a paralegal certificate program

Certificate programs in paralegal studies are often an ideal option for those who want to become a paralegal in a short amount of time. They are usually designed for individuals who have earned a degree in a different field but want to switch to a paralegal career. These programs can typically be completed in less than a year.

Participating in internships or practical experience opportunities

Gaining experience through an internship is an amazing opportunity for individuals who aspire to become paralegals. These positions serve as a bridge between theoretical knowledge gained in classrooms and working in the legal industry. These internships offer a unique opportunity to gain practical skills, apply textbook theories to real-life scenarios, and establish relationships with legal professionals. Some common titles for this internship include paralegal intern, legal assistant intern, or paralegal/law assistant intern. 

Seeking mentorship from experienced paralegals or attorneys

When starting a legal career, having a solid legal mentor is critical for a paralegal’s professional growth. A mentoring relationship can help a paralegal develop not only the skills required to do the job but also gain confidence, establish career goals, and build a successful paralegal career.

Joining professional associations and attending industry events

Networking can provide paralegals numerous benefits, including finding avenues to improve their skill set and meeting other professionals who can help them get ahead. More importantly, there are a variety of options to network as a paralegal, including national associations, professional association committees (American Alliance of Paralegals, American Association for Paralegal Education AAFPE, and theABA Standing Committee on Paralegals ABA), industry events, and even social media pages.

Engaging in continuous learning and professional development

The paralegal profession is one of those careers that can significantly benefit from continuing education. Being a paralegal requires you to keep learning constantly. With laws and regulations being updated frequently, paralegals must ensure they can keep up with these changes. Attending continuing education classes such as through the Advanced Certified Paralegal (ACP®) Program and workshops can help you stay on top of these issues. It can also assist you in your overall success and growth as a paralegal.

How a Paralegal Certificate Program Helps Develop Skills

Obtaining a paralegal certificate provides paralegals with an opportunity to improve their skills by focusing on practical learning. The program emphasizes skill development in areas related to the profession, such as strategic problem-solving, critical thinking, communication, research, etc. By completing this certificate, students can enhance their abilities, boost their paralegal resume, and become proficient in various aspects of the paralegal profession.

Structured curriculum tailored to paralegal skill development

The paralegal certificate program provides individuals with a comprehensive educational experience in legal studies that equips them with the practical skills required to work as a paralegal. The program curriculum generally covers legal basics and essential paralegal skill development, in addition to other major subjects of law, such as legal research, business law basic principles, commercial law, tort law, and legal writing.

Access to experienced faculty and legal professionals

A paralegal certificate program allows individuals to learn from an experienced legal professional and other faculty members who keep their curriculum updated with industry standards. As a result, this program not only supplies individuals with the skills needed to excel as a paralegal, but it also provides them the opportunity to gain the skills relevant to the constantly evolving legal industry.

Opportunities for hands-on learning and practical application

A paralegal certificate program is designed to provide individuals with practical learning opportunities and hands-on experience to develop the skills necessary to become a paralegal. This program provides individuals with the skills they need to perform daily tasks such as conducting interviews, and investigations, preparing documents, maintaining files, engaging in correspondence, conducting research, writing legal documents, and analyzing legal cases.

Networking and mentorship opportunities within the legal community

The paralegal certification program can offer students countless networking and mentorship opportunities. It can connect them with local legal professionals, leading to a new career path, additional work experience, or a paralegal job.

Final thoughts

The legal industry is a fast-paced and high-pressure profession, which is why paralegals are usually required to possess a diverse set of skills that are effective in handling its complexities. These skills include proficiency in legal technology, excellent research and analytical skills, effective communication skills (both verbal and written), and a solid understanding of the legal system, its rules, and legal terminology to ensure compliance.

If you are thinking about a career as a paralegal, consider taking the necessary steps highlighted in this article, such as enrolling in a paralegal certificate program to gain these valuable skills.

About the Authors

Written by:

Kasia Nelson, Esq.

Kasia Nelson is a licensed attorney and skilled legal content writer with years of experience. With a background in corporate immigration law, she is well-versed in the intricacies of producing legally accurate and well-researched work. 


  • Michigan State University, B.S.

  • Western Michigan University – Cooley Law School, J.D.

Law Licensures

  • Michigan

Kasia Nelson

Kasia Nelson, Esq.


Education: Western Michigan University – Cooley Law School, J.D.

Knowledge: Corporate Immigration Law

Reviewed by:

Ryan P. Duffy, Esq.

Ryan P. Duffy is an attorney licensed to practice law in New Jersey, North Carolina, and South Carolina. His practice focuses primarily on Estate Planning, Personal Injury, and Business law. 

Law Licensures

  • New Jersey

  • Pennsylvania (inactive)

  • South Carolina

  • North Carolina

Ryan Duffy

Ryan P. Duffy, Esq.

Editorial Lead

Education: Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law, J.D.

Knowledge: Estate Planning