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Three Legal Websites All Paralegals Should Use
These Sites Can Help You in Your Paralegal Career!
If you are working as a paralegal, one of the best ways to make sure that you are not relegated to the status of a "glorified file clerk" is to constantly expand your skills.
Now some of you may be moaning and thinking to yourselves, "I don't have the money to take additional classes!"
This post will not nag you to take additional classes (I'll save that for another post). Instead, it is friendly advice to working paralegals to think outside the box and explore resources that offer professional development that can be used immediately at the workplace. Best of all, these featured websites do not require a subscription membership, and the resources offered on them are free or low cost.
If you do not do anything else today at work (well, besides doing your work of course), make it a point to bookmark the following websites:
Nolo (http://www.nolo.com/). Full disclosure- I am a fan of nolo.com! Since leaving academia to work as a paralegal, it has become my greatest ally in this profession. Billed as a comprehensive legal resource site for non-lawyers (e.g. small business owners, landlords), this website can be an invaluable tool for paralegals, regardless of experience level. This site features a legal dictionary and encyclopedia, access to forms and downloadable books (most available for a fee) and great articles on nearly every area of law practiced in the United States.
How can you use nolo.com as a resource in your office? Let's say you are a novice paralegal and you were assigned to a cushy temp job as a corporate paralegal at a law firm. Your primary function is to help attorneys with filing corporate documents; however, you are smart and you want to do more, but you don't have a background in corporate law. Also, the lawyers are throwing around terms you don't understand, and this bothers because you like your temp assignment and you want to be placed permanently at this firm. One step in your edification in corporate law is to write down the terms you hear, and look them up on nolo.com!
Don't know the difference between an LLC and a corporation? Can't tell the difference between a C-Corp and an S-Corp? You hear a couple of attorneys say they are assisting a newly formed non-profit acquire 501(c)3 status, and do you arch your eyebrows in utter confusion? Well have no fear, nolo.com can answer all of those questions for you and the site provides examples to help you better understand the topic at hand. Nolo.com can be a great stepping stone for paralegals working in any off law.
Findlaw.com (http://www.findlaw.com/). Findlaw.com also offers an online dictionary, access to forms, as well as a lawyer search (by state and area of law). Litigation paralegals will find great value in this website because users can conduct free case law searches. This site also does a great job of offering up-to-date legal news as well as feature legal articles by prominent attorneys who discuss the latest legal issues impacting various areas of law.
Findlaw also has a professional site for paralegals and attorneys. Access to the professional findlaw site (http://lp.findlaw.com/) requires users to subscribe to a free account. Unlike the regular findlaw site, legal professionals can find resources to assist with practice management, have access to a more robust search tools to research legal cases and codes, and job search resources dedicated to legal professionals and paraprofessionals.
Legal Talk Network (http://legaltalknetwork.com/). This is a recent discovery for me. After finding out about Legal Talk Network ("LTN"), I rue the fact that I have not stumbled upon it sooner! If you are the type of person that prefers listening to discussions on legal topics, you can access the various podcasts featured on LTN such as e-discovery, litigation, intellectual property and legal technology. LTN podcast contributors include Boston University School of Law, Landy Law Letter, ESI Report, Paralegal Voice and Digital Detectives. Users of this site can subscribe to podcasts by using RSS feed links or itunes.
Don't know what to listen to when you visit this site for the first time? Start with the podcast What Attorneys Wish Their Paralegals Knew – and Vice versa. Moderated by Paralegal Today, this podcast features a very informative discussion on an issue that is on the mind of many paralegals (and attorneys). More importantly, sharing this podcast with your supervisor can be a great way to foster meaningful communication between attorney and paralegal - you would come away with a better understanding of what is expected of you as a paralegal, and your boss beomes cognizant of the need in providing you constructive feedback and possible mentorship to help you advance in your career.
Also, think of how impressed your collegues would be when you share podcasts with them? You set yourself apart from other paralegals by demonstrating the fact that you seek legal news and education. Who knows, this may lead to more interesting assignments that entail more than filing documents, drafting legal pleadings or calling legal clerks to confirm court appearances at your local courthouse. For example, you could be asked to more advance legal research, compile continuing education resources for your team or department or maybe even create and manage a section in your company's/department's intranet site featuring legal news or podcasts.
There are many other resources out there (and I will feature them in other articles), however, these sites are a great start in building your arsenal of low cost tools for your professional development paralegalism.