Skill Enhancement for Paralegals: Legal Writing and Public Speaking

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Paralegals and their supervisors are constantly frustrated because most paralegal training courses are concerned only with the basics. Additionally, one of the constant sources of frustration is the lack of legal writing skills and non-comprehension of ‘legalese.' As paralegals have to shoulder more and more legal work, the focus on paralegal training is shifting inside law firms. For example big firms like Clifford Chance LLP have rosters listing individual trainers to enhance the skills of their paralegals. Due to the lack of training courses other than courses offered on legal writing run by law schools under extended campus programs, law firm paralegal training is gaining importance.

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Legal Writing Skills for Paralegals

Even in case of initial recruitment of paralegals, today, employers want to see proficient writing samples. As stated by Nancy Caine Harbour of Eastern Michigan University, “A paralegal's inability to write a coherent sentence will undermine the paralegal's credibility and the attorney's faith in his or her work product.”

In an interview in 2009, Lynda Wertheim, then director of legal assistants for White & Case New York, made the same observation, “I think writing skills have become diluted over the years. We provide training in writing skills for paralegals.” Even major firms like White & Case now have training programs to enhance legal writing skills for paralegals, and as expected, the same courses also act as a screening process. For instance, if you succeed at the top of your training class, you have better chances, if you fail to prove your competence, whether you will continue as an employee becomes doubtful.

There are several good paralegal courses that build strong foundations in legal writing. The UC Berkeley Extension offers a course on Essential Paralegal Studies on Authority, Research, and Writing. In addition, there are professionals like Marilyn LeLeiko whose clients include firms like Brown Rudnick Berlack Israels LLP and Clifford Chance LLP. Moreover, there are also universities such as the University of Nevada, which offers courses for paralegal skill enhancement.

Public Speaking Skills for Paralegals

When it comes to the work of paralegals, the need to articulate properly and the ability to explain complex legal issues,, is essential. According to Wertheim, “Public speaking goes hand-in-hand with the need for clear writing.” White & Case holds a public speaking session for paralegals each year.

According to other professionals who are in charge of enhancing the skills of paralegals in big law firms, paralegals also need to understand and learn basic business etiquette, communication skills, and marketing techniques. In today's market, paralegals need strong business communications skills from learning how to shake hands to being able to communicate complex legal matters. Thus, the need to master the art of public speaking is helpful to a great extent.

Hands-on experience

Most people who train paralegals and are noted for their excellence say that paralegal training needs to take a practical approach. Further, all good courses weave the angle of real-world training into the course itself, much like clinics in law schools. Experiential learning opportunities and on the job learning is much better than simple theoretical instructions. While distance education is still the top option for paralegals due to the demanding work schedule, real enhancement of skills is difficult to attain through distance education unless a paralegal is working in a law firm.
About Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes is the founder of LawCrossing and an internationally recognized expert in attorney search and placement. Harrison is extremely committed to and passionate about the profession of legal placement. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placement attract millions of reads each year. LawCrossing has been ranked on the Inc. 500 twice. For more information, please visit Harrison Barnes’ bio.
About LawCrossing
LawCrossing has received tens of thousands of attorneys jobs and has been the leading legal job board in the United States for almost two decades. LawCrossing helps attorneys dramatically improve their careers by locating every legal job opening in the market. Unlike other job sites, LawCrossing consolidates every job in the legal market and posts jobs regardless of whether or not an employer is paying. LawCrossing takes your legal career seriously and understands the legal profession. For more information, please visit www.LawCrossing.com.

Clifford Chance

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