The personal injury paralegal skills needed for a successful career in the personal injury practice area can vary greatly depending on whether or not you will be handling the file from start to finish (case intake through litigation and/or potentially trial).
Some of the larger personal injury law firms split the case files into a pre-litigation phase and a litigation phase. Usually, when they do this, they have some paralegals who only handle the case intake through the demand/negotiation phase. If the claim does not settle and a complaint is filed, then that case file moves to the litigation department and a different paralegal handles the litigation phase through trial.
From an efficiency standpoint, there are advantages and disadvantages to this approach. There are reasonable arguments to make for both approaches. However, for a personal injury paralegal’s career, this segmented approach could limit your career growth potential. If you spend several years doing nothing except the case intake and claim phase, then you do not get the opportunity to enhance your litigation skills.
If you plan to work in a law firm that does not segment its files into two phases, then your Personal Injury Paralegal duties will include:
- Meeting with clients for the initial client intake
- Requesting police reports and medical records
- Providing clients with status updates regarding their claims
- Scheduling meetings and conference calls
- Interview clients and witnesses to discover facts
- Gather and analyze evidence
- Review and summarize medical records
- Prepare summaries and exhibits
- Communicate with clients, medical providers, investigators, claims adjusters and court personnel
- Draft demand letters
- Draft pleadings
- Draft discovery requests and responses
- Prepare case for trial
Then there are the soft skills and interpersonal skills that will help you succeed as a personal injury paralegal:
- Time management skills
- Excellent communication and organization abilities
- Strong research and report-generating skills
- Ability to multi-task and prioritize work
- Strong work ethic
- Empathy towards clients and/or their family members who have suffered an injury or a loss (understanding that this is an emotional time for them)
- Strong technology skills
If you are currently working in only the pre-litigation phase, try to expand your personal injury paralegal skills by asking to help other firm paralegals on their litigation cases. If that is not possible at your firm, consider taking some personal injury training courses that focus on litigation and trial skills.
To hear a personal view on what it’s like to be a personal injury paralegal, check out the article from Jamie Collins.