Paralegals and paralegal students often have difficulty developing their writing skills to the level expected from legal industry. The legal professionals rely heavily on both verbal and written communication, and writing is an essential necessity for both lawyers and legal secretaries. Because the other employees in a law firm will not tolerate inadequate writing skills, all paralegals need to learn to write in a concise and precise manner with proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation. But how should they get started?
In this episode of The Paralegal Voice, Vicki Voisin interviews Virginia Koerselman Newman, lawyer and paralegal teacher, about why proper legal writing is important for paralegals and how they can get started on improving their skills. Newman suggests that paralegals and legal assistants start by writing down everything they can think of regarding the case then choose only the important facts later to adapt to a legal framework. She suggests taking classes on structure, grammar, and punctuation, buying the book The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, and simply practicing. Use a practice textbook, edit mistakes in a magazine, and keep a daily journal. She concedes that learning to write is particularly difficult, especially because technology has made us complacent, but it is better to improve your ability now than struggle through your paralegal career. Newman finishes the podcast by mentioning how to show off writing skills through a resume, cover letter, and a developed portfolio.
Virginia Koerselman Newman, Esq. graduated from the Creighton University School of Law and practiced for many years in banking and commercial litigation in Omaha, Nebraska before she "attempted" to retire in South Carolina. Before Law School, she worked as a paralegal for a number of years and was the first CLA in the state of Nebraska. Koerselman Newman is a frequent speaker at seminars and workshops and has authored, co-authored, and edited several other paralegal texts, study guides, and instructor manuals. She teaches communications, legal research, estates, and legal analysis at NALA school for paralegals.
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