Sound Advice for the First-Year Paralegal

There are some things that you can’t learn in a classroom, as many paralegals will tell you.

The first year as a paralegal is a challenging one for many individuals, as there is always a considerable learning curve. A recent survey posed the question: What do you wish someone had told you when you were a first-year paralegal?

And the advice that many paralegals provided was practical, enlightening, and quite sensible. Here are just a few of our favorites:

  • Improve your writing skills: Excellent writing skills will always serve you well throughout your career.
  • Take good notes: No one wants to be asked the same questions over and over. Take good notes and you won’t have to.
  • Confirm everything: Don’t guess or assume you know how the attorney wants it done. It’s always better to ask than to mess it up.
  • Be friendly: From attorneys and court personnel to your fellow paralegals, always be friendly to those who cross your path. You will, at one time or another, come across people who are lazy, ignorant, or mean, but stay professional and always take the high road.
  • Join a paralegal association or committee: The business relationships and friendships you create will prove invaluable throughout your career.
  • Learn that you can’t do everything: Even with the best of intentions, you can’t do everything. Know your limits and understand that taking on more projects than you can handle will result in less-than-stellar work on your part.
  • Refer to your attorney with a problem, but always come armed with at least one solution: Your problem-solving abilities will always be appreciated.
  • Take nothing personally: This is a hard rule to live by, but it will always serve you well.
  • Sit for the CP exam sooner than later: Many paralegals wish they were encouraged to sit for their certification exam sooner in their career.
  • Find a mentor, then be a mentor: Find a mentor who can guide you earlier on in your career path. As you progress in your career, consider being a mentor to others.