A paralegal’s primary job activity demands professional writing. Whether writing a brief, correspondence, notes, honing your paralegal writing skills will help you. It saves time and contributes significantly to your firm’s success.
Your writing abilities can help you land that raise or promotion in today’s fast-paced legal environment. It will help you stand out during your following interview. The following are some valuable strategies for improving your paralegal writing abilities.
1- Maintain simplicity in Your Legal Writing
Having a large vocabulary does not require you to embellish every piece of writing. This is mainly when communicating with clients and other professionals. Focus on the major points you’re attempting to communicate and avoid allowing your message to become lost in translation.
2- Communicate professionally
It is unacceptable to use “lol” and “btw” in a professional email. With the advancement of technology, communication has become less professional and more intrusive.
Impress your boss by adhering to the following rules when writing:
Unless professionally acceptable, avoid abbreviating terms (i.e., state names, etc.). This includes explicitly spelling out “do not” and “will not” and avoiding the use of “don’t,” “won’t,” and similar expressions.
Not assume that you may use the party’s first name with whom you are communicating. You can only do so if you have permission to do so.
Avoid being unwittingly offensive in your interpersonal communications. Remember that professional communication does not allow for a political or personal philosophy.
Maintain a professional and respectful demeanor in your communication, even if the issue is objectionable.
Keep your writing official unless you have a personal relationship with the entity you speak with.
3- Familiarize Yourself with Microsoft Word
It is shocking how many professionals continue to use Microsoft Word (“Word”) as if it were a typewriter! Word is an enormously complicated and brilliant software that can save you time and frustration when appropriately used. The first step toward improving your paralegal writing abilities is to change the program you use. Consider taking some online Microsoft courses. Conduct some internet study on the benefits of utilizing Word to hone your legal writing skills.
Several features are available to you:
- Utilize automated numbering to ensure that your pleadings and documents do not contain typographical errors in the paragraph numbering. You can extend automated numbering to produce headers and formatting for your paragraphs.
- Utilize auto text and rapid parts to automate the creation of repeating words, phrases, and entire pages. This tool saves you much time and aids in the consistency of your writing.
- Avoid using the space bar to create indentations. If you need to reformat your document, these spaces can wreak havoc on your work result. You can use the tab button to generate a single indentation. If you want to establish an indented format for each paragraph, you should instead use Styles.
- Utilize Styles to ensure that the format of all of your papers is consistent. It helps make them appropriate and eliminates formatting issues (having two different font sizes in a document, etc.).
- Create your Word hotkeys. By creating and using hotkeys, you can avoid pausing and searching for frequently used symbols or phrases. The subchapter symbol () is an excellent example of this. Inserting the symbol is a four-click operation (insert-symbols-symbol-). By assigning a hotkey to the subsection symbol, your fingers will never have to leave the keyboard for the mouse. This will save you time and hassle!
Consistency and commitment are critical. Setting up and remembering your hotkeys takes time. Creating templates may appear to be a laborious and time-consuming process. However, taking the time today to adopt these procedures can help you avoid costly mistakes. You can develop into a more productive paralegal with pro-level paralegal writing abilities!
4- Avoid Reinventing the Wheel; However, Exercise Caution When Reusing Documents
Exercise caution when reusing articles from your folders. Inadvertently including the incorrect name or Word in a contract might be costly.
Thoroughly clean your documents. Avoid human error by using find and replace rather than manually searching the document. Create templates for frequently used documents and use fields as placeholders for continually changing content.
5- Avoid Skipping Over the Review Process
When writing, follow these helpful guidelines: write, review, and then read aloud.
It’s easy to scan a document and overlook that “from” is spelled “form” and “and” is spelled “an.” Reading the document aloud will assist you in identifying these problems.
Always use spellcheck on every correspondence, regardless of how trivial or minor it may appear. Typographical errors reflect poorly on you and your business. Do you require a checklist to complete before sending paralegal communications? For good email etiquette and review, consult this checklist.
6- Avoid Plagiarism
Ensure that you give credit where credit is due. Never, under any circumstances, plagiarize any piece of text. Cite your sources properly and include your efforts.
7- Maintain an organized environment
All styles of writing require organization. Before you begin drafting a lengthy legal document, create an outline to help you organize your thoughts into a logical order. Organize your notes and emails and respond to communications promptly. Maintaining an organization will assist you in developing and succeeding in your paralegal job.
8- Maintain an Orderly Desk
While notes and paper are necessary, you no longer need to be surrounded by stacks of papers and post-it notes. You can make use of the advancement of technology. By combining Microsoft One Note and To-Do with the program Sticky Notes, you may build a digital notepad. You can put up forthcoming chores, reminders, and tickler files, removing the need to clutter your work environment. This is especially advantageous if you unexpectedly need to work from home.
It takes time and effort to improve your paralegal writing skills. Take the time to keep notes on your computer. This includes a reference sheet for my hotkeys links to citation generators for easy citation makers. Place your templates on your desktop for easy access. This will assist in remembering to use these shortcuts. You will not build your auto-text and quick parts libraries overnight. Add them to your library whenever you repeat a document or phrase. Utilizing these tips will become second nature eventually.