In order for a paralegal to be a valuable asset to the law practice, he/she must stay “on top of their game.” Often, a paralegal is asked to research a particular statute or case law examining one or more pertinent issues in a case. The reason the paralegal is asked to perform this task is because the attorney is attempting to build the best defense for their client, and using the services of a paralegal is an efficient and cost-effective resource.
But what if the paralegal is unfamiliar with, or up-to-speed on, the particular issue being researched? What if the client presents an issue on which neither the attorney nor the paralegal have previously worked? Would the paralegal know how to find the answers they need to build their case?
We all know that attorneys, bar associations and courts place a great deal of emphasis on continuing education for lawyers. However, if the lawyers are relying heavily on their paralegals to do the preliminary research, wouldn’t it make sense to have the most educated, skilled paralegal assisting you? Absolutely! That is why it is even more important for the attorneys to invest in their paralegal’s education.
a paralegal to be a valuable asset to the law practice, he/she must stay "on top of their game."
Many organizations (the National Association of Legal Assistants, the National Federation of Paralegal Associations and the Maryland State Bar Association, just to name a few) offer outstanding continuing legal education courses on a variety of subjects. These courses are usually taught by professors or long-standing members of the bar who have earned the respect of their colleagues and are well-known in the legal community to be pre-eminent in their respective fields. Although the courses through the Bar Association are usually marketed to attorneys, paralegals could definitely benefit as well by attending these very educational, career-enhancing seminars. There is no better investment than keeping your staff up to date on the latest news and strategies as presented in CLE classes.
While it is tempting to want to have the latest and greatest technology gadget in your office and expand the efficiency of your staff’s production, an attorney and/or law firm must also consider the work product that is generated by its billable asset: the paralegal. When your paralegal staff is knowledgeable and well-trained in its field, not only does the attorney’s job become infinitely easier, but the paralegal also benefits by being even more valuable to the firm and its clients.
Paralegals play an important role in the day-to-day functions of a law firm (including solo practitioners), and their attendance at CLE seminars is as vital as that of attorneys. Law firms would be wise to include CLE courses for their paralegals in their operating budgets. It is definitely a win-win for both the paralegal and their attorneys.
Valerie Nowottnick, Owner of Paralegal Consultants, has over 25 years experience in the legal industry and provides a variety of support services for attorneys across the State of Maryland.