There are several types of software that have become essential to paralegals. The more familiar you are with each, the more opportunities you will have and better you will be able to perform your duties.
Office Suites: Microsoft Office & Word Perfect
Microsoft office is the standard for most businesses including most law offices. You’re probably familiar with most of Office. Pay particular attention Word and Outlook because of how they interact with other software. Outlook ties into most client management software. Word ties into most pleading drafting software.
Word Perfect is an office suite you’re probably less familiar with. It is a fully functional office suite. This is essential because many offices will need to be able to open and work in Word Perfect files. The law changes relatively slowly, even its software. Word perfect is slowly being phased out, but until it is you’ll need to be familiar with it.
Client Management Software
The two most common are TimeMatters and Abacus. These are essentially database and calendaring programs that keep client files organized and deadlines tracked. They are powerful programs including the ability to merge client information into documents, track time, file reminders and integrated research storage.
They do however take a significant amount of time to learn to use properly. Of all software in this article, client management software most merits formal training. Unlike office software, when you know one does not mean you will be able to easily navigate others. Dedicate the time necessary to learn these software packages, they are the core of many law practices.
The drafting of pleadings is increasingly automated to save time and increase the productivity of lawyers and paralegals. Drafting software, sometimes called document assembly software, compiles the core elements of each pleading and allowing the user to make additions and modifications based on the specifics of the individual case. The most widely used drafting software is ProDoc thought there are several others.
Drafting software ensures that the necessary elements are in each document and eliminates much of the simple research and drafting. This type of software significantly speeds up the drafting process and cuts down on errors that copying and pasting from other pleadings often results in.
You’ll want to be at least proficient in legal research using online legal research databases. These allow you to pull case law and statutes. Research is one of the skills that is the most valuable and will allow you to move up quickly. Learn the research process and then learn the format of the various research platforms available. LexisNexis, WestLaw and LoisLaw are the most widely used research databases.
Become familiar with these tools and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a paralegal. Being able to acquire new program skills quickly will serve you well as you progress. There are other programs, such as digital discovery software, that can increase your value as a paralegal but these are a solid foundation.