Straight Talk About Skills Needed to Work Remotely
Straight Talk About Skills Needed to Work Remotely
Written by June Hunter
Shifting to remote work appeared seamless for most – in reality, it required a lot of effort. There has been any number of podcasts and articles highlighting “shifting skillsets” over the past 24 months, so how do we know what we need to learn versus what we already know? I believe that a key skill that any paralegal should possess is the ability to adapt. Any given day I can open up LinkedIn and read an article on skills a paralegal should possess. Those skills usually include technology, communication, client interaction, etc., but this all goes to how adaptable can one be. The onset of, and continued struggle with, the pandemic is showing us (or should be) that adaptability in our career is the key to our success. The discussions of the “new normal” or getting back to “normal” need to end and be replaced with discussions of being adaptable and flexible. As a paralegal that had to shift an entire office to remote work and as an instructor in an ABA-approved paralegal program that needed to go to a fully online teaching model, it was the key to my success as a paralegal and as an effective instructor.
Next, legal professionals need to not only get comfortable with legal technology – software and hardware – but also the ability to ask for assistance/training when they need it. Knowing where to find that help is key in the day-to-day life of a paralegal. Building on the premise of getting comfortable with legal technology, we need to understand what that looks like. As a legal professional knowing how MS Office for legal professionals operates is key. Can you successfully use MS Word to format documents – including generating a table of contents? Do you know how to use cloud storage to include OneDrive, Sharepoint, Box and Dropbox, Google Drive, Sharefile, and the many other cloud storage platforms? Can you navigate a document management system? Can you successfully use Zoom, MS Teams, and the other video meeting software programs on the market? When we all go back to some part of working in an office these programs will not lessen in use. The “new normal” will be to leverage software to be more productive. With the invention of facsimiles, emails, and efiling, we saw an increase in productivity, and more importantly, the level of expectations clients had for immediate response skyrocketed. This expectation, this demand for immediate services, will only increase as we move forward.
For those that continue advocating for either a hybrid or full work-from-home model, you will need to be able to provide a workspace that is not a dining room table or makeshift area in your home. This workspace should be separate, ergonomically constructed, and viable for long-term work. This work-from-home environment should have available a stable internet connection, not one that has dial-up speed, as well as a backup for when their internet goes down. I also see cybersecurity being more prevalent of an issue and employers wanting assurance that data is being kept safe. I often ask legal professionals if they understand that those voice-activated devices they are fond of should be turned off when working. Any smart device (insert name of favorite speaker here) is actively listening and waiting for that buzzword. Keeping client and firm data safe needs to be a high priority. Legal professionals should also be familiar with what a virtual private network (VPN) is and why they need to purchase one when working on Wi-Fi. Another item of importance when working from home is making sure that home internet service is secure and that default passwords on devices are changed and made more secure, which includes making sure all home computing devices be updated frequently. This requirement includes confirming that you are receiving notification of the updates for each device or software program. To see how the American Bar Association is handling this please review the ABA’s Formal Opinion 498 which can be found at https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/professional_responsibility/aba-formal-opinion-498.pdf.
For many, the “new normal” may not shape up the way we had expected, but one thing is becoming clear – we will not be going back to the way it was before the pandemic. Technology will continue improving and the expectations placed on paralegals will only increase. It is important to keep up on those “shifting skillsets” and escalating demands. I have found LinkedIn an invaluable resource, as well as networking organizations such as NALA and your local paralegal organization. The legal influencers on LinkedIn provide relevant information as well as links to other resources that allow us to evolve.
June Hunter is a Technical Enablement Specialist for legal software company DISCO, where she works daily to train individuals on legal technology. Prior to joining DISCO, June’s career included roles where she worked as a paralegal/IT services provider/eDiscovery Specialist. She is equipped with a powerful combination of IT systems expertise and legal experience and has a unique capability for recognizing and resolving the complex technology issues encountered in a law firm environment. June also teaches Computers for Legal Professionals in the University of California San Diego’s ABA-approved Paralegal Program.
A graduate of the ABA‐approved Paralegal Studies program at UC San Diego, June has worked in the legal field for 30+ years in roles such as legal secretary, paralegal, litigation support, and computer software trainer. Her industry experience and talent have made her a go‐to provider of clear, hands‐on training for other legal professionals in how to effectively use legal software.