Paralegals: Conference Uncovers Areas for Professional Growth in Utah Law Firms
Published on August 19, 2013 by Peter Tomala
The role of a paralegal is extensive and critical to a law firm’s success. Even though the industry continues to recognize their importance, paralegals are still misunderstood in the workplace. Broadview University’s paralegal degree program held a lunch-and-learn conference titled, “Effective Ways to Hire and Use a Paralegal” to start a conversation on how these staff members are utilized in the office.
Local paralegals, attorneys and law professionals got together and discussed the current state of affairs within the position.
With attendees ranging from working in sole practices to larger firms, there were bound to be differences in responsibilities among the staff. Paralegals are currently doing a little bit of everything, including: gathering financial information, drafting documents, creating legal letters, explaining financials to clients, conducting case research and e-filing.
They are charged with keeping the entire legal process going and bridge the communication gap between the lawyer and client (which is difficult to do because they need to know what each side is saying and how to work with them).
Smaller firms are maximizing paralegals’ work by using them in other administrative areas, while younger paralegals are being tasked with training the office on newer technology. While there was a consensus on their value, there is still room for growth in the field. According to the attendees, the top areas for growth are:
- Provide clear expectations for paralegals
- Paralegals sometimes are not challenged enough (the more that they can do, the more it frees up other staff)
- Communication is the most important skill that professionals lack; give paralegals constructive feedback and be specific
- Create an environment where paralegals feel comfortable asking questions
- Lawyers can be too prideful and afraid to ask questions. Just ask a paralegal, everyone will be better off.
As one paralegal put it, “If attorneys recognized what their other staff could do, we would all be more efficient. We could collectively get more work done.”
Broadview University is proud to be initiating the conversation around how paralegals can add value to the workplace.