RealJobs: Michael A. Makinde

If you are going to be a paralegal, you should be creative and flexible and you better know how to play well with others.

I can honestly say I have used every skill I have learned from 1st grade up until grad school. Everything I gathered between Arts and Crafts and East Asian Securities, I have applied on the job at Kramer Levin LLP. I even had the chance to translate a document from Spanish to English my first summer here. However, I can say without a doubt that the two skills I utilize the most are time management, and effective communication.

I think this goes for almost all occupations but: Communication is key. At times, I can be two to three people removed from the original source of any project or request. Because the work usually gets passed down and delegated from a variety of sources, it is crucial to communicate effectively and to keep the lines of communication open and honest. You should never be afraid to ask questions, especially when you are just starting out. When you get into the work force you should not be shy or scared-you need to be bold in order to execute with laser precision. And of course, patience is often required.

A “get it done” attitude is critical to the position. If someone needs a battery for their laptop, you better know where to get one and when Staples closes their doors.  Knowing the Fed- Ex deadlines and the location of the courts is also important. Someone always needs something and you are the guardian of all the knowledge of the world- or so they think.  This is a responsibility I have come to cherish, but it is truly difficult to embrace at first. Resourcefulness is highly valued in my office, in any form it may appear.

Another thing I’ve learned at my job is that a very easy yet sincere way to endear yourself to people is to be very flexible. Coming in for a few hours on a Saturday or taking a trip across town to get a signature may not seem like acts of martyrdom, but someone is going to notice. It is very important to stay open and eager to pitch in. There is a down side to this however. I know a few litigation paralegals that have had to spend months in New Jersey shacked up in a hotel room during a long trial. No Snooki, no Pauley D., and no MTV beach house.  However, on the other side, I was moments away from having to accompany a package of documents to Mumbai, India on short notice. I felt like I was in an episode of “24”.

Being a paralegal does have its welcomed surprises, however none of them came today. I spent the majority of today updating a case calendar for one of our cases. This is a critical task because all the attorneys and paralegals working on a specific case use the case calendar to track upcoming deadlines and events. Everything from hearings to holidays is reflected on the case calendar. In order to manage it effectively, the courts electronic docket (or ECF), must be carefully reviewed to see what motions and orders have been recently entered in the case. It is sometimes necessary to reach out to a clerk, court deputy or someone else in the judge’s chambers in order to accomplish this.


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