Discover (and integrate) the key learning principles that are crucial to the efficient, cost-effective onboarding of paralegals in your law firm.
Behind every contract and case that passes through the desks of a law department or firm is a high-functioning team of paralegals that operate in synchronicity with the firm’s attorneys. These legal professionals play a critical role in maintaining efficiency, data accuracy, and client relationships, making them paramount to a firm’s profitability.
The resounding problem is that while many firms have decent onboarding processes that train newly-hired paralegals in the necessary SKILLS to do the job, there is a near complete void of KNOWLEDGE training. Without essential knowledge, the paralegal must ask question after question to paralegals, attorneys, and support staff and wait on answers before communicating with a client or drafting case work. The inefficiencies are stressful and frustrating for all involved.
So, how can law firms efficiently train paralegals, not only in the hands-on skills they require but also to soak up the enormous volume of information they need to step seamlessly into their organizations and swiftly get to work, productively, without having to be micromanaged?
In this guide, we explore both the problem and the solution, ultimately guiding hiring firms towards a more efficient onboarding process for paralegals!
The problem: paralegals swiftly gain skills but get stuck on knowledge
Most newly-hired paralegals are trained through an “apprenticeship” model, where they learn by doing. For example, if a firm wants its paralegals to be skilled at performing quick research, they start by giving them a first project, teaching them how to use whatever software or resources they have, and then giving them feedback on their research comprehensiveness, accuracy, presentation, format, and time management. By a paralegal’s third or fourth project, they should have the process down and efficient, enabling them to continue without supervision.
It’s through constructivist activities like this—participating in projects, making client calls, observing other lawyers and paralegals, and asking their own questions—that onboarded paralegals acquire the necessary skills, as well as an understanding of the particular demands of their employing law department or firm.
While these activities introduce the paralegal to statutes, regulations, procedures, and policies, they lack the breadth, detail, and repeatability necessary to learn and apply KNOWLEDGE.
Effective training on processes, resources, software, people, & culture set the employee and employer up for success.
You are different from your colleagues and competitors. That’s how you survive and thrive. Despite these differences, you want new paralegals who will absorb all your clients’ FAQs and your team’s preferences, rules, and eccentricities just by being in your midst, right?
With all our differences, one thing is the same: the applicability of the rules of professional conduct. We cannot have an unlicensed paralegal providing legal advice or otherwise jeopardizing our license to practice. We are obligated to supervise, and effective supervision is not limited to reactionary or punitive measures taken to prevent or mitigate mistakes. Effective supervision entails ounces of preventative training to avoid the pounds of curative actions.
What details, big or little, do you want your paralegals to know intuitively so that they are empowered to step seamlessly into the firm and immediately get to work?
This knowledge might have taken more experienced members of a firm years or decades to amass. Yet, when we train paralegals, we spout off rules verbally as a side note or, in more “developed” systems, dump a six-pound training manual in their lap, trusting that they will study it between calls or cases and retain it all.
This “linear” way of dumping information, if it’s even done at all:
Is brutally boring, overwhelming, and decreases job satisfaction;
Doesn't achieve the desired outcome: paralegals aren’t efficiently acquiring a firm’s knowledge, processes, and culture;
Even if they do eventually learn all the facts, it takes too long, and
While on the steep, brutal learning curve, they are acting under your license.
Since time is money, the inadequate transfer of knowledge to paralegals is costing firms money and exposing you to professional conduct violations.
The more knowledge employers can equip new paralegals with in the shorter amount of time, the quicker these employees will become assets by working more efficiently and performing better for clients.
And this frees the firm and its attorneys up to do what they enjoy most: representing more clients, taking on a more varied caseload, participating in bar associations, pro bono projects, impact litigation, or even enjoying vacations and family time.
So the solution lies in employers packaging all their knowledge in a way that is easily and efficiently digestible by newly-hired paralegals, and using proven cognitive science techniques to help them learn exponentially more in less required study time.
How can they do this?
The solution: leveraging the science of knowledge acquisition to train paralegals