PARALEGALS AND TECHNOLOGY
Technological innovations have had a significant impact on the legal field in recent decades, for attorneys and paralegals alike. Gone are the days of typing pleadings and other documents on typewriters and filing them in person at the courthouse. Advances in technology have also led to new ways of storing, securing, and sharing legal files.
Unlike some careers where there is a concern that technology will replace the need for human workers, the future of paralegals and technology seem to be intertwined in several ways, creating a sense of job security for paralegals who understand and are adept at working with the technologies of today and tomorrow.
RECOGNIZING THE ADVANTAGES AND CHALLENGES OF THE CLOUD
Paralegals are often tasked with organizing and maintaining client records, court filings, and firm-related documentation. In the not-too-distant past, this meant managing paper records in manila folders. An increased adoption of — and reliance on — cloud storage by law firms and corporate legal departments has created career opportunities for new and aspiring paralegals who are comfortable creating, securing, accessing, and sharing electronic documents and files.
PARALEGALS WHO UNDERSTAND TECHNOLOGY CAN BETTER SUPPORT THE FIRM
While a paralegal’s job description does not usually include “IT Support,” there is often nobody else on staff who has the time or capability to help partners, staff attorneys, and others understand and use new technologies effectively. In addition to serving as ad hoc IT staffers, paralegals may also be called upon to help the firm with its social media presence, draft security policies related to employees’ use of technology, and otherwise add value in unanticipated ways. Paralegals who are adept at using technology are in high demand because of their ability to help enhance their firms’ capabilities.
SOFTWARE PROFICIENCY IS NO LONGER SIMPLY A BONUS SKILL
At one time, knowing how to use popular legal research tools such as LexisNexis or Westlaw and knowing the ins and outs of the Microsoft Office Suite of software tools might have given a candidate for a paralegal role an advantage against other candidates. Today, however, it is almost an expectation that paralegals will not only recognize these tools, but also will be proficient in using them. The strongest paralegals today often have an advanced working knowledge of these tools, as well as legal, litigation management, and productivity software applications — both for personal computers as well as their corresponding smartphone and tablet versions.
ADVANCES IN TECHNOLOGY FOR LITIGATION SUPPORT HAVE CREATED OPPORTUNITIES
E-discovery tools and case management software have further changed the job description for many paralegals, shifting manual processes to highly automated systems for preparing for litigation. Paralegals (and aspiring paralegals) in litigation-heavy firms or corporate legal departments can differentiate themselves from the competition and add value by gaining proficiency with the most common software tools and programs (i.e., Concordance and Trial Director).
BECOMING A PARALEGAL
Although there is not a national educational requirement to become a paralegal, some states have implemented minimum education and certification requirements. Earning an Associate of Science in Paralegal Studies degree takes about two years, compared to about four years to earn a bachelor’s degree. Additional paralegal certifications are also available through the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) and the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA).
Upon graduation from a college-level paralegal program, degree holders should understand how to perform typical paralegal job responsibilities such as preparing documents and using traditional law library resources to conduct effective legal research. In addition, graduates will recognize and be able to use legal technology for legal research, writing, and case management tasks.
<h2>GENERATIONS COLLEGE IS TRAINING TOMORROW’S PARALEGALS TODAY
The future is bright for aspiring paralegals who can not only use technology effectively, but who are willing to embrace it and leverage its power to help their employers succeed.
At Generations College, we’ve been training paralegals for successful careers since 1973. With both traditional on-campus and fully accredited online degree programs, we are committed to providing the highest-quality education for the paralegals of tomorrow. Contact us to learn more about our Paralegal Studies Major, or apply online[DM1] today!