One of the greatest assets you can possess as a paralegal is a strong understanding of technology and legal software applications. Whether you have been in the legal field for a while or you are looking to enter into the legal profession, knowing how to effectively utilize cutting-edge technology will give you a major advantage when applying for a job with a Florida law firm.
Below is a list of nine tech skills every paralegal, legal secretary, and, frankly, anyone working in a law firm needs to know:
Tech Skill No. 1 – Document Management
In any given law firm, you are probably going to be bombarded with stacks of paper documents such as deposition transcripts, court pleadings, evidentiary exhibits, etc You need to know how to scan and operate various digital document management systems such as Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.
Tech Skill No. 2 – Creating Presentations
Back in the day, presentations were set up using physical displays and charts. Today you can save time, money, and energy by simply learning how to use presentation software. The most well-known presentation tool is Powerpoint. However, there are other great systems you can use such as Prezi and Keynote on Mac computers. These applications usually come equipped with templates to make your task easier. The key to a good presentation is knowing how to condense information and present it effectively. The features on these presentation systems will help guide you so that you can make pertinent information stand out.
Tech Skill No. 3 – Billing Software
Most lawyers in large Florida law firms bill clients by the hour. Therefore, it is crucial that you keep these hours documented through a reliable billing software system. Make sure to research and analyze the highest-rated and recommended software applications. There are plenty to choose from, including: PracticePanther Legal Software and Protempus. Also be sure to learn all of the features that come with these programs such as Account Tracking, Calendar Management, Case Management, Client Statements, Expense Tracking, Retainer Billing, and Time Tracking.
Tech Skill No. 4 – Online Research
A top-notch paralegal needs to be comfortable using legal research services such as LexisNexis and Westlaw . These are the most prominent and well-regarded legal research platforms used by most law firms in Florida and elsewhere. They can assist with fact-checking and citing pleadings, motions, memorandums, etc.
Tech Skill No. 5 – Word Processing
A legal professional needs to have strong writing skills. With that, you must have the right tools to generate legal documents. The most popular word processing tool today is Word by Microsoft Office. It’s easy enough to navigate, but once you get to know all of the features it offers, you will be better equipped to handle most legal documents that you are assigned to draft. In addition to Word, there are other digital word processing tools such as Google Docs that mimic many of the features available in Word but are cloud-based which makes sharing with colleagues very easy.
Tech Skill No. 6 – Digital Organization and e-Filing
Most courts today use electronic systems to store legal documents such as pleadings, petitions, and general case files. Each jurisdiction may use different software, which is why it is beneficial for a paralegal or legal secretary to become familiar with these different e-Filing systems. You also need to know how to organize and send digital files on behalf of your lawyer to the court and its staff.
Tech Skill No. 7 – Cell Phone Applications
This may seem like a given, but there are many applications on cell phones that can prove to be essential for many lawyers, paralegals, and other legal professionals. Cell phones today are like mini-computers in your hands that can give you instant access to quick research, documents, calendars, and time tracking. You should be adept at navigating these smartphone applications, syncing these applications to the platforms on your lawyers’ computers, and making sure the applications stay updated.
Tech Skill No. 8 – Office Tech
Scanners, printers, and copy machines are still significant tools that a legal assistant should know how to use. These will be in everylaw office, and if you aren’t sure how to use them, it could be detrimental to your work. And while emails are the go-to method to send over files, you should still know how to properly work a fax machine in the event that another office operates with this kind of tech. Office technology helps the overall function of the office, so expertise with these hardware systems will escalate your reliability as a legal professional.
Tech Skill No. 9 – Conferencing Software and Applications
Whether it is by phone or computer, knowing how to coordinate a conference call is vital to your responsibilities as a paralegal. These group conferences enable meetings to take place without the hassle of traveling to another city. Your office may already have the tech needed to hold a conference call, so make sure you are familiar with all its bells and whistles. A live video conference is just as (if not more) important to learn how to navigate. Live video calls are being used more and more these days, whether it is through Skype or some other visual conferencing system.
Stay Current with Technology
As you can see, there are many tech-based tools you should take the time to not only master but stay up-to-date with any advancements. This may seem tedious and repetitive, but you will become a valuable asset to a law firm if you are well-versed in billing software, research tools like LexisNexis and Westlaw, and smartphone applications.
Related: How to Become a Paralegal