How often have we heard the idea of “marketing” your skill set and experience to your employer to ensure you continue to be a viable member of the legal team? Today, we often learn from our peers their jobs may be in jeopardy due to the downturn in the economy, a merger, or restructuring of their organization. In these instances, one’s mindset is not on their career but focuses on the mere thought of how to pay monthly bills and continue to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle.

In today’s business world and job market, we can no longer assume we will remain with the same employer until retirement. So, how can you increase the marketability of your paralegal experience and skills?

(1) Volunteer to take on projects within your own company, law firm, or government agency that will complement and enhance your current skill set and ultimately lead you outside of your comfort zone.

(2) Get to know how other team members tackle and organize projects.

After all, we are becoming a more transparent society, which applies to conducting business in the workplace. Sharing information is a must! Although we would all like to take pride in owning a project, sharing with a co-worker your leadership role may lead you to future sole ownership of a task.

Multi-Tasking is Required

Gone are the days when any of us were hired to serve a sole function on the legal team. We are now asked to successfully and efficiently perform numerous tasks in the delivery of legal services. Multi-tasking is a familiar concept used during the interview process of new employees: “How comfortable are you in juggling several projects with immediate deadlines?” And the next question: “Do you reach out to others for assistance to successfully meet those deadlines or do you have a meltdown?” Managing your emotions and your stress levels is very important to maintaining a positive and more productive presence in your work environment.

Have you heard rumors among your peers about someone constantly complaining that:

(1) Projects are less than challenging.

(2) Demanding attorneys wait until the last minute to prepare a brief to be filed the same day.

(3) They are expected to have a subpoena prepared and served on the same day on a witness.

(4) The challenges of organizing logistics for a document review outside your office in another state?

Do those sound familiar to any of you in the litigation practice area?

We all have heard many times paralegals are great multi-taskers, so the above situations can be viewed as challenges we may anticipate, allowing us to plan for positive outcomes without having a meltdown. Spin and apply your proactive talents to assist with defusing some of the stress of meeting critical deadlines. Do you personally calendar/docket important deadlines where your input and assistance may be needed? Do you hold regularly scheduled meetings or have weekly email communications with your legal team to discuss upcoming events that may require your involvement?

Planning Ahead

If you are aware of the deadline for filing a lengthy brief, e.g. motion to dismiss, motion for summary judgment, or motion for class certification that may reference several documents to support your legal argument – grab a copy of the draft and begin collecting, organizing and storing the exhibits electronically that will eventually be labeled and attached to the pleading for an electronic filing with the court and service upon the parties in the litigation. Often times you may have to research the location of the documents designated from a document database, deposition testimony excerpt, or Internet. It’s best to allow yourself plenty of time to compile the collection.

I find it a good practice to create a subpoena template to store in my firm’s document management program. If you need to prepare a subpoena either for a deposition, documents, or trial attendance at a moment’s notice – you only need to insert the name, location, and date. Many states have PDF templates online of subpoenas; check these out before reinventing the wheel.

It is best to be kept informed about any discovery pleadings, particularly initial disclosures or requests for the production of documents that have been submitted during the pendency of the litigation. This may give you a clue about the opposing counsel’s universe of documents. Parties will often have an outside vendor acting as the document repository or an off-site warehouse where the documents are stored (if not in electronic format) that will require an inspection to determine which key documents from the collection need to be scanned for further review.

Coordination of the production of documents generally occurs with communication between the parties’ paralegals. The issue of cost sharing should be discussed with the opposing party at the onset of the project because client pre-approval may be necessary due to the anticipated expense for your client.

 Expanding Your Skills

Does your company or law firm have providers that offer free webinars about their products? These are great and easy ways to enhance or gain new skills to allow you to be a more active resource to your employer! Some webinars may provide CLE credit depending on the topic, and it is a painless experience to sit at your desk and let someone else become the driver of your computer screen while you get some education in one hour!

Take some risks and you may be pleasantly surprised at the support your employer will give to help you become a more proactive employee and team player! The next time you receive an email about preparing a self-evaluation in conjunction with your job performance review, be sure to include the projects you were involved with outside your assigned practice area. A gentle reminder about your accomplishments will refresh the memories of those who instill the most confidence in your abilities and are your best advocates!

When it comes to court reporting, NAEGELI Deposition & Trial provides the highest quality of professionals nationwide. As one of the only court reporting firms to supply you with an audio transcript free of charge, we also provide 100% verifiable transcripts.