Updated November 2022
If you’ve landed on this page, you’re probably considering becoming a paralegal or legal assistant.
You’re wondering what the role involves and whether it’s a good fit for your personality, interests, and natural talents.
You’re definitely on the right track. Researching the skills and qualities of good paralegals is an excellent way to explore the career.
A basic job description can only tell you so much. You need to dig deeper and uncover what drives and motivates paralegals—and what it takes to truly excel in this role.
That’s exactly what we’re covering in this post.
We'll break down the complete profile of a successful paralegal or legal assistant. Discover the traits you need to become a respected legal professional, and whether this career is your true calling.
1. Strong reading, writing, and research skills
Don't enjoy writing and hate the idea of doing reading and research on a daily basis? You can stop right here. Becoming a paralegal probably isn't your life path!
Reading, writing, and research are essential skills for paralegals and legal assistants. Whether you run your own paralegal practice, or support a team of lawyers, much of your work will involve things like:
☑️ Analyzing case law and legal precedent
☑️ Editing and drafting legal documents
☑️ Writing emails and memos
☑️ Taking trial and meeting notes
☑️ Organizing and updating client files
☑️ Scouring legal databases like Quicklaw and eCarswell Lawsource
People who work in law are usually strong, quick readers and sharp analytical thinkers. These are skills you can improve during paralegal training, but it helps if you actually enjoy these activities.
2. Excellent communication and interpersonal skills
You will not succeed as a paralegal or legal assistant without strong interpersonal and verbal communication skills.
Planning to become a licensed paralegal and represent clients in court? In order to win cases, you'll need to communicate clearly and confidently, showcasing your legal expertise and proving your arguments.
Want to work as a legal assistant? You will need strong communication skills to represent the firm professionally, and gain the respect of your supervising lawyers.
Whether you're corresponding with clients, addressing a judge, or assisting a lawyer—being articulate and congenial is key.
3. Organization and time management
Paralegals are always juggling multiple clients and cases. It’s the same for legal assistants, who often assist several lawyers and work on numerous projects simultaneously.
Being able to manage your time and organize your work is key. This is a skill many students learn early on during paralegal training.
Most paralegal programs are condensed into one to two years. You will cover a lot of ground as you prepare to write the Ontario paralegal licensing exam.
The fast pace of training is excellent preparation for the real world of legal work. Paralegals often deal with tight deadlines and busy schedules.
Note: If you want to represent clients independently, you must pass the exam and earn your paralegal licence. If you prefer to work as a legal assistant, you do not need the licence.
4. Integrity and Professional ethics
Paralegals advocate for their clients' legal rights and best interests. They are trusted to represent clients to the very best of their ability while staying within the boundaries of the law.
Just like lawyers, paralegals are expected to respect and uphold the principles of our justice system.
This work demands a strong sense of ethics and a high degree of professionalism. You will have a direct impact on the lives of your clients—and with that power comes responsibility.
Even if you’re working as a legal assistant and not representing clients directly, you will be expected to uphold high ethical standards. Your reputation as a legal professional will depend on it!
5. Genuine desire to help others
Most people pursue careers in law because they have a deep desire to help others. They are inspired to fight for justice, protect vulnerable people, and make society a fairer and safer place for all.
There’s no doubt that our legal system has its flaws—but despite those challenges, lawyers and paralegals have incredible opportunities to make real, positive change in their communities.
If you have a genuine desire to help people, becoming a paralegal is an excellent way to make that dream a reality.
6. Persistence and attention to detail
Persistence separates adequate paralegals from great paralegals. Our legal system is incredibly complex. And it’s certainly not known for moving swiftly!
It often takes a long time to conduct legal research, prepare and double-check legal documents, get ready for trial, and refine your legal arguments.
This work takes precision, dedication, and hard work. The best paralegals and legal assistants are prepared to put in the extra time, to ensure clients get the best possible result.
Those who constantly take shortcuts don’t get very far. It's all about persistence and attention to detail.
Are you a good fit?
Some of the skills on this list can be taught—like legal research and document preparation.
On the other hand, traits like integrity, work ethic, and true passion for helping others are more innate. These are not concrete skills you will learn in any classroom.
Would you make a good paralegal? If you’re still not sure, we suggest speaking with a qualified admissions advisor.
An advisor will guide you through training, licensing requirements, and job options. They will talk with you about your background, interests, and goals, and determine if paralegal is the right role for you.
You can get started right now. Click below to explore Herzing’s accredited paralegal diploma program and chat live with an advisor. We're here to help!