We work with some of the brightest lawyers and legal assistants in the country each day. If there’s one thing we’ve learned in the course of filing approximately 1,200 Supreme Court briefs a year, it’s that our office runs on COFFEE! But, if there’s a second thing that we’ve learned, it’s that an organized and competent legal assistant is worth his or her weight in gold.
These individuals are key resources for an attorney and are frequently responsible for legal research, writing, and managing competing time-sensitive projects. To be successful in the legal field, a great legal assistant should have:
1. Technology Skills
We live and work in an environment marked by the high use of technology, giving us the ability to collaborate and make individual contributions as never before. Tech-smart legal assistants provide an array of computer-based tasks for their less than tech-savvy attorneys. Some of these functions include:
- Formatting legal documents
- Tracking deadlines
- Maintaining calendars
- Navigating legal research databases
2. Organizational Skills
Organizational skills are essential in managing the day-to-day aspects of a law practice or an attorney’s bloated case load. Twelve hour days aren’t uncommon. The best legal assistants are able to maintain paper and electronic files, accomplish difficult tasks at the last minute, and operate as an undeniable force in front of those who want more time than an attorney is willing to give.
3. Research skills
Effective legal research skills separate the Pros from the Joes. A great legal assistant can execute legal research on Westlaw or Lexis, cite check, locate expert witnesses, and obtain relevant information from the client.
4. Writing Skills
Attorney’s won’t, and often can’t, write everything that’s filed in court. Legal assistants often find themselves drafting internal memorandums, court motions, transactional documents, and entire sections of a brief. An indispensable legal assistant utilizes strong grammar and proofreading skills to assist attorney’s filing in a variety of jurisdictions.
5. Attention to Detail
I put this one last – and you’ve noticed! That’s probably because you’ve got an eye for detail (or apparently nothing else to do today). Quality legal assistants handle many of the minute details of a legal practice. They’re responsible for everything from scheduling meetings, monitoring deadlines, and organizing emails to ordering lunch, booking a flight, and checking for updates on the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure.