Whether just embarking on a paralegal education, or heading back for another semester, a new school year is underway. How to get off on the right foot, and make sure you get get the most of your time in class, so that you can succeed in a new legal career?
These practical tips could help you to get good marks, and — more importantly — get the most out of the opportunity paralegal school offers.
- Behave Like the Professional You Will Be
Be professional in all your communication.
Every time you communicate, whether an email to an instructor, a tweet about school, a FaceBook post asking for advice, or a LinkedIn group question, it sends a signal about who you are. Be serious, direct and professional in every message you send. Remember, your instructors are not your friends. Correspond with them as if you’re in a workplace. Use correct forms of address, get to the point and write as if you would in business correspondence.
- Act Like You Care
You signed up for paralegal training for a reason. Keep that reason in mind, in class and out. Read the assigned material. Do more than is expected. Raise your hand when you have a relevant question. Don’t start packing your stuff 10 minutes before class ends. Don’t look bored in class, ignore assignment instructions, then show up at an instructor’s office to grovel for a better grade.
- Develop Resources
Professional paralegals have their files and binders full of the most-useful case law, precedents and documents. It is never too early to compile your own lists and binders. Save the cases you learn in school, or find in your independent research. Become the go-to person for a niche area within the scope of practice.
- Carpool or Use Public Transit
Use student discount on transit, or carpool with fellow students. Not only will you save on gas and parking — you can use the time to read required texts, work on assignments, and develop relationships that could help you later.
- Mind the Company You Keep
Not all your fellow students share your goals.
Associate with those who want to become professional paralegals. Avoid those who want to use you, to have you do work they will take credit for, distract you during class, or are relentlessly negative. Form study groups and help those who are willing to give as much as they take.
- Get What You Pay For
Check out organizations and groups before you sign up and hand over a cheque. You don’t need to pay a fee to get information about your profession, to meet with paralegals, get discounts on insurance, find a placement, get referrals, or locate a mentor. Save your money for start-up costs, marketing and professional development that will benefit you and your future clients.
- Subscribe to SCOPE Magazine
Keep up with what’s happening in the legal community.
Updates and articles include reports on Convocation decisions, legislative and regulatory changes, discipline decisions, events and happenings in the paralegal community. Look for discounts on products and services, and get valuable tips on practice management. You don’t have to pay a fee to access and use the information.
Read articles for students, including “How to Survive (and Thrive) at Paralegal School, the SCOPE article that offers straightforward advice.
Use the Search Function at SCOPE for information related to class assignments and subjects.
SCOPE content is organized by category. Categories include the main practice areas, with articles that explain significant decisions, legal principles and trends within each practice area. This includes: small claims, POA, LTB, IRB, human rights, criminal, and lesser-known, under-serviced areas that fall within the scope of practice.
Take quizzes at Paralegal SCOPE, to test your knowledge of legal subjects. Develop your own quizzes, based on information published at SCOPE, to use in study groups.
Read the Legal Words of the Day. Like all content at SCOPE, these are relevant to the scope of practice and include cases to review, to gain a thorough understanding of a legal concept or principle.
- Get to Know CanLII Connects
Find case summaries and commentaries related to a subject, a legal term, or legislation that affects the paralegal scope of practice. Paralegal SCOPE was invited to join and maintains a Publisher page at this resource. Paralegal contributions demonstrate solid legal analysis and writing. You will find research tips and sources at SCOPE.
- Don’t Forget to Have a Life
Don’t get so absorbed in marks, assignments and class politics that you forget what it is all about. Let your friends and family know how much you appreciate their support. Don’t forget to thank your instructors, and other staff, for their efforts. Take care of yourself and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.