Should Law Firms Invest in Training to Improve Their Paralegals’ Writing Skills? Of Course.

Improve Your Writing

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Neither Law Firms, the Paralegals There, Nor their Clients Want Paralegals to Work Only on Routine Projects.

Paralegals do not wish to push paper all day, only.  Lawyers do not assume that their paralegals should perform rote tasks only.  Clients, frankly, would like to get the most out of a firm’s paralegals because paralegals bill at much lower rates than do partners or associates.  So, how do firms (including governmental entities and non-profits) provide paralegals with challenging work, which is also within the paralegals’ job description? First, firms must offer training to paralegals to develop their reasoning and legal writing skills.  Second, firms must provide training to paralegals to develop their work portfolio to include writing projects, which are above and beyond paralegals’ ordinary job duties. Third, to offer this training, firms can provide their paralegals an online legal writing course, create their own training program, or commission an instructor.

For Law Firms to Assign Paralegals More Challenging Projects, the Firms Must Provide Their Paralegals the Right Skill Set

Sound reasoning and legal writing skills are key for paralegals (including legal assistants) to undertake more complex projects. In a particular firm, the better a paralegal can write, the better the projects. The better the projects, the more the paralegal can accomplish for the firm, the firm’s clients, and the career-advancing paralegal.   

As a Deputy Attorney General, in a litigation practice and law professor, I have worked with and taught paralegals for over 30 years.  The great ones do extremely well in their careers—obtaining supervisorial positions, assisting in significant motions and interesting trials, or moving onto law school.  

What was the commonality between all of the paralegals who succeeded—strong reasoning and legal writing skills?  Don’t just take my word for it.  In an interview with Jim Humes, Presiding California Court of Appeal Justice for the First District, Division One, the Justice said, “. . . a paralegal who can write well is worth their weight in gold and they’re going to go a lot farther than the ones who don’t.”  Similarly, Paul Samakow, forty-year practitioner and founder of  The Legal Merry Go Round, a podcast designed for non-lawyers and law students, in an interview noted that paralegals who write well will succeed and ultimately make more money.

Many scholars have preached the need for legal practitioners to develop strong reasoning and writing skills to do well in a law practice.  One experienced law professor found that students who think unclearly write unclearly.[1] College students have deficits in critical reading, complex reasoning, and writing. Rigorous college courses with extensive reading and writing requirements can result in true academic improvement.[2] Logic is necessary to excel in the law, but many students of the law have not learned logic in college.  No one has taught college students how to create and construct legal arguments.[3] After all, practicing law is a trade. What is the trade based upon? It is based upon: flawless writing, logical reasoning, and persuasive argument.[4] If you do not possess this foundation, you can still develop it.

Therefore, law firms should make available to paralegals a  training program in reasoning and legal writing skills targeted to the kind of documents that a paralegal can prepare.

Second, What Are the Legal Documents that a Paralegal Can Draft?

Paralegals can draft the following documents:

  • Memos
  • Motions
  • Business emails
  • Letters
  • Briefs
  • Miscellaneous pleadings, like complaints and settlement documents
  • Witness interview questions
  • Document summaries

Writing plays a key role in all of these documents.  Consider memos, motions, and business emails, for example. Paralegals should be able to write memos and (in many instances) first drafts of motions. Firms should train paralegals to draft strong business emails, which are organized, straight-forward, concise, and clear.   Recognizing that the paragraph structure is key to any professional writing, paralegals should treat email as a formal communication and write using a topic sentence, the principles raised, and examples.  Here is a business email example that I, as a professor, wrote to my class, addressing three issues, all in our paragraph:

Hi Class,

I write here about our chat room session tomorrow night concerning course evaluations, presentations, and edits to the motion to suppress. First, you will complete evaluations from 7:15 to 7:30. Check your mailboxes for receipt, and then, submit the completed evaluations, as indicated. Evaluations are important to the program and to the professors, so please do complete them. Second, we will next turn to the presentations on the Michael Jackson child molestation case and O.J. Simpson robbery case. Please note that you must submit at least one question or comment to a presenter on the topic. And third, please read the (edited) Opposition to Motion to Suppress Evidence. It is attached here, and in Course Resources. Please make at least one comment regarding the effectiveness of a particular change, noting how the change fulfilled a Conclusion, Rule, Analysis, and Conclusion (CRAC) requirement.

See you tomorrow night in the chat room,

Bev Meyers

(For the entire blog about business emails, please see the blog).

To Train Paralegals, A Firm Can Offer an Online Legal Writing Course, Create Their Own Training Program, or Bring in an Instructor

Firms can create their own training program or commission an instructor to train paralegals in legal writing. The easiest and most efficient method is to offer an online legal writing course. There are many good legal writing courses out there, particularly paralegal training online.  Paralegals should consider taking my course, Legal Writing Launch.  Legal Writing Launch is a good paralegal training course or paralegal training program. After taking Legal Writing Launch, students will see immediate improvement in their basic and legal writing skills.  For basic writing, Legal Writing Launch will provide a strong foundation in grammar and essay writing.  Students will then develop their legal writing skills by writing legal correspondence, memoranda, and briefs in a professional manner. Improved student writing will have a powerful impact on the reader by virtue of the writing’s clarity, succinctness, and organization. The basic course itself consists of short videos, concise lecture notes, and select readings.  Students will spot and develop issues, use IRAC/CRAC in strong paragraphs writing in plain English, and develop their grammatical skills.  Add-ons are also available, including Assignment Editing and Weekly Zoom Mentoring (which includes Assignment Editing).   In taking the basic course alone, paralegals should be able to improve their writing in legal writing samples.  If students take the Add-ons, paralegals should develop confidence before starting a new job or a new position because they have solid legal writing skills.  Law firms, governmental entities, and non-profits should consider offering Legal Writing Launch as training for paralegals.

Billionaire investor Warren Buffet states, “[b]y far the best investment you can make is in yourself.”[5]  Buffett added that developing one’s communication skills—both in writing and in-person—”can increase [one’s] value by at least fifty percent.”[6]  Invest in your paralegal professionals, right? Have them write!

What a Paralegal Student Has Said:

“Because of the strong legal writing skills I had learned from Professor Meyers, right from the start, I was able to prepare first drafts of motions and detailed research memos at the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office.”​

Stacy Buchanon, John F. Kennedy University, Paralegal Certificate 2010, Bachelor of Arts, Legal Studies, 2013

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If you have any questions, feel free to email us.


[1] Flanagan, The Kids Aren’t Alright: Rethinking  he Law Students Skills Deficit (Kids Aren’t Alright) (2015) Brigham Young Univ. Educ. And Law Journal 136.

[2]  Viatar, Adams & Reese, Legal Education’s Perfect Storm: Law Students’ Poor Writing and Legal Analysis Skills Collide with Dismal
Employment Prospects, Creating the Urge to Reconfigure the First-Year Curriculum (Legal Education’s Perfect Storm)
 (2012) 61 Cath.
U. L Rev. 735, 755, n. 97.

[3] Legal Education’s Perfect Storm, supra, at pp. 735 & 755, n. 97.

[4] Legal Education’s Perfect Storm, supra, at pp. 755-756.

[5] Warren Buffet Says This 1 Investment Decision Will Be By Far the Best One You Ever Make, Inc.com (Jan. 2021).  

https://www.inc.com/marcel-schwantes/warren-buffett-says-this-1-investment-decision-will-by-far-be-best-youll-ever-make.html#:~:text=In%20a%202019%20interview%20with,by%20at%20least%2050%20percent.%22

[6] Warren Buffet Says This 1 Investment Decision Will Be By Far the Best One You Ever Make, Inc.com (Jan. 2021).  

https://www.inc.com/marcel-schwantes/warren-buffett-says-this-1-investment-decision-will-by-far-be-best-youll-ever-make.html#:~:text=In%20a%202019%20interview%20with,by%20at%20least%2050%20percent.%22

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