Do you know what one paralegal skill can make or break your career?
It’s your attention to detail.
Regardless of the practice area that you work in, or the employer you work for, as a paralegal, you must master the attention to detail skill.
Look at any survey or ask any HR professional who works for lawyers: What are the top 5 reasons that you terminate a paralegal?
Among those top 5 you will always hear: They made too many mistakes or had poor quality work product. These boil down to this one paralegal skill: attention to detail.
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Why Attention To Detail Matters in Your Paralegal Career
This one paralegal skill is also something I teach inside the Litigation Paralegal Boot Camp, because in my opinion, as a new litigation paralegal, if you master your attention to detail early in your career, you can make up for some of your lack of experience.
Yes, you read that correctly. I tell new paralegals this all the time: what you lack in experience you can make up for in your attention to detail.
Now, we can also flip that and say that as a senior paralegal with many years of experience, you can limit your success or maybe even ruin your paralegal career if you have a lack of attention to detail. That’s how important this one paralegal skill is.
I remember I had a partner come to me when I was a paralegal manager and he was carrying some papers with him. He hands me the papers, and they are emails that he received from his paralegal – someone who was working there as a paralegal for a few years before I started as their manager.
He handed me these emails and said “When you question why this paralegal doesn’t have enough work on my team…this is why. If she can’t even take the time to make sure a two-sentence email doesn’t have errors in it, how am I going to trust her to draft documents that the client or the court might see?”
This wasn’t an entry-level paralegal. It was a paralegal who had around seven or eight years of experience.
Do we all make mistakes? Of course, we do. But the cold hard truth of working as a paralegal is that too many mistakes can kill a career fast. That’s especially true if they’re careless mistakes or they continue to happen.
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The Difference Attention to Detail Can Make
The difference between something good and something great is attention to detail.
– Charles Swindoll
Here’s what he means…you’ve probably been to a restaurant or a hotel, and you left with the feeling of “WOW” that was perfect, that was great! You can’t stop raving to your friends and colleagues about how great it was. You tell them, “you HAVE to try this restaurant!”
Then there are other times when you’ve left a restaurant and said, “It was a good value for the money” or “That was a really good dish,” but you didn’t get that wow factor.
What was the difference? I can bet if you pay attention next time to the difference you’ll see that the great restaurant paid a lot of attention to the little details…like the side that the waiter served you on, the temperature of the food, how they kept your water glasses full without asking, how the table itself looked, the way all the wait staff was dressed, the fresh flowers at the entrance, the way the hostess treated you. And yes, the meal was delicious, too. The way the plate was presented, all of that.
You might not have consciously thought about all these little details while you were there, but your subconscious caught them. That’s why the restaurant puts that much effort into all those little details. So that you leave thinking that it was a GREAT restaurant, not just “that was a good restaurant:”
That’s what this quote means. It doesn’t just apply to restaurants and hotels. It applies to how we are viewed as legal professionals as well. The difference between a good paralegal and a great paralegal is their attention to detail. Think about that.
What if it’s not just about knowing every possible skill that a paralegal has to know to do their job? What if you could continue learning more skills along the way, but while doing that, you’re paying close attention to detail?
Learn why it’s about more than just paralegal skills.
What is Attention To Detail?
Let’s start with the definition of attention to detail. It is the efficient allocation of cognitive resources in order to identify and process the relevant elements of an issue or task and produce the appropriate result.
I’ll break that down. Notice it starts with an allocation. We’re allocating our cognitive resources. Not so that we can do a task. So that we can identify and process the relevant elements of that task and produce the result.
Notice this doesn’t say that it means you’re a good proofreader. Or that you allow enough time to do one last quality control check.
Attention to detail is all about allocating resources.
What resources? Your cognitive resources.
4 Things Keeping You From Mastering This One Paralegal Skill
If you are a new paralegal, and you’re working in litigation, or you want to work in litigation, don’t forget to check out my Litigation Paralegal Boot Camp.
It’s the only online course and coaching program of its kind that gives you the mindset, behaviors, and skills to fast-track your paralegal career.
Don’t just take my word for it. Go check out the paralegal reviews at LitigationParalegalBootCamp.com.
Meet the Author
Ann Pearson is the Founder of the Paralegal Boot Camp, and host of the Paralegals on Fire! Podcast Show, and passionate about promoting the paralegal profession.
Ann spent 20 years working as a paralegal manager and a litigation paralegal before opening the Paralegal Boot Camp in 2010. Her training programs focus on adding immediate value to a paralegal’s career and bridging the gap between what a paralegal learns in school and what they actually do on the job.
When Ann is not working, you can usually find her somewhere near the ocean – either boating, scuba diving, or rescuing sea turtles.