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The Soft Skill That is Important to a Paralegal Career

BEING A PROBLEM-SOLVER WILL ADVANCE YOUR PARALEGAL CAREER

Soft skills are just as important as the other skills you develop throughout your paralegal career.  One of those is the ability to solve problems, rather than reporting problems. Ask any attorney who thinks their paralegal is a rock star, and they will tell you that their paralegal is a problem solver.  The problem-solving skill is the one skill that every paralegal can develop and continue to improve throughout their entire career.

What is a problem-solver?

According to TheFreeDictionary.com, a problem solver is a thinker who focuses on the problem as stated and tries to synthesize information and knowledge to achieve a solution.

Compare that to someone who simply recognizes a problem and reports the problem to the attorney-in-charge and needs direction on how to proceed to solve the problem. On the other hand, the problem-solver paralegal recognizes a problem and comes up with one or two possible action steps to take to solve the problem, and THEN approaches the attorney with the problem and the proposed solution(s).

Sounds easy enough. But keep in mind that you are reporting this problem (or proposing this solution) to someone who spent three years in law school and many years practicing under the theory that they should question everything unless it’s backed up by a citation, regulation, rule, or precedence.

When you are the problem-solver paralegal, you are prepared for the potential “cross-examination” questions that you will need answers to when you approach the attorney with your proposed solution(s).

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You can use a 3-step method to come up with some proposed solutions, while also being prepared to answer all the questions that are bound to come your way.

 

1.  Write out the problem in simple terms.

The vendor won’t be able to deliver our project on time.

2.  Ask yourself the 6 questions used when writing a story. When you answer them, you’re likely to come up with a proposed solution to the problem.A flow chart for solving problems with essential questions for solving problems surrounding the circled “solution”

  • Who?
  • What?
  • Where?
  • When?
  • Why?
  • How?

3.  Then ask yourself those 6 questions from the attorney’s perspective when he/she hears your proposed solution(s).

These are just a few examples of some questions that might need to be answered with our hypothetical vendor problem.

  • Who is another vendor that might be able to jump in and help meet the deadline?  Has the original vendor allocated more resources/staff to increase productivity?
  • What other technology is available that would allow us to speed up the process?
  • Where was the proposed delivery location? If in another city and we were planning on shipping overnight from here, maybe we could find a vendor in that delivery city instead.
  • When is their proposed completion date/time?
  • Why did this problem occur?
  • How can we make sure this does not happen again?

The next time a problem comes up with one of your projects, try working through this 3-step method to help you come up with a proposed solution and you will be prepared for the questions that may come at you from the attorney.  Being the problem-solver on the team will advance your paralegal career.

Meet the Author

A portrait of Ann Pearson for the Paralegal blog.

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. 

Ann’s 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.

Visit the About Us Page to learn more about why Ann started the Paralegal Boot Camp.

Connect with Ann on LinkedIn

Featured Courses:

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Personal Injury

As a personal injury paralegal, you have an important role in the pre-litigation phase of your claim files. 

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Litigation

Are you still waiting for on-the-job training that takes you through the lifecycle of a litigation case and shows you what it is you can be doing?

This course and coaching program is what you’ve been looking for! 

This is the only program of its kind that provides you with all of the tools to master your litigation cases, from the complaint through the trial, and everything in between.

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