8 Traits of a Methodical Paralegal (and Why You Should Be One)
Article by Jan Hill
Paralegals should be many things: organized, efficient, ethical, hard-working, meticulous, and methodical. Being methodical means forming a routine and sticking to it, even as deadlines loom and stress ensures. Here are some of the qualities that define a methodical paralegal and why methodical should be your new MO:
Competent paralegals focus on the big picture, but also pay attention to the small details that can make or break a case. Methodical paralegals are careful to follow all procedures – overlooking nothing – to ensure the accuracy of documents and case information.
However, nobody is perfect, and mistakes are a part of life.
When you make a mistake, you should take responsibility for it, correct it if possible, forgive yourself for making it in the first place, and (here’s the methodical part) learn from it by implementing strategies to avoid repeating the mistake.
#2: In control (sometimes)
Paralegals have little or no control over many of the things that occur during any given day in a law firm – the demands, the cases, the personalities, the workload, the hours required to prepare for trial, the frustration of clients, and whether or not your computer decides to cooperate.
However, you can control the way you react to stressful situations, the overall quality of your work, and whether you tackle your job proactively or reactively.
Focus on exercising control where you can and experiment with controlling how you react where you can’t.
Because methodical paralegals have a solid routine, they have the time and insight to tackle issues and problems before being instructed to do so by an attorney. They see what needs to be done and have the independence and assertiveness to take the ball and run with it. They are also resourceful and inventive when searching for solutions to problems. They use their skills and good judgment to develop solutions on their own and then present them to the attorney.
Paralegals often deal with the intangible, complicated, and vague components of the law, and successful paralegals must be able to think rationally to recognize the key concepts and facts regarding specific cases.
This requires communicating facts and conclusions in a clear, methodical way to the attorney – a skill that is critical for paralegals who are valued for their ability to use logic to analyze a case, ignore the irrelevant facts, and focus on what is most important.
The ability to stay calm and not become irritated when faced with problems or difficult people is part of a paralegal’s job. According to Joyce Meyer, “Patience is not simply the ability to wait, it’s how we behave while we’re waiting.”
A patient (and methodical) paralegal does not just sit around waiting for problems to get solved or go away. Instead, they rely on their organizational skills to work toward the ultimate goal – while they’re waiting.
Methodical people are usually very persistent, meaning they do not give up easily. Why should a paralegal be persistent? Great paralegals think outside the box rather than merely accepting what is presented to them, and they keep going regardless of how tough things might seem. While some people give up when they come up against an obstacle, a persistent person draws on their logic and ingenuity to find a solution to a problem.
A paralegal generally has no idea when their supervising attorney is about to swoop in on them, so they have to be ready at all times. This means being able to accurately present the status of a particular task or case before being asked about it. Once the stress begins to build, if you haven’t set up systems to quickly check your progress, you’ll be unable to control the things you can proactively control, negatively affecting not only your sanity but also your success.
Methodical paralegals tend to seek certification and obtain continuing legal education (CLE), not only to maintain their credentials but also to continue to learn and grow in their careers.
While devoting time to education might seem to only add more responsibility to an already busy paralegal’s life, a methodical person can multi-task, not only at work but also between work and educational pursuits.