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Virtual Paralegalism

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An Associate Discusses Communicating with Legal Assistants

Nelia Robbi, a Texas attorney, gives the following advice about interacting with legal assistants in a recent article posted at, “Communicating as an Associate: Remain Authentic”:

A little respect makes a big difference in office relationships. I know this from personal experience, having been an assistant before. I spent nearly two years at a publishing house in New York City, making copies and searching through a pile of manuscripts for that elusive next great American novel. I know how frustrating it is to get a call at 2:30 a.m. from the boss asking if her room really was nonsmoking because — sniff, sniff — it sure did smell like someone might have smoked in there … once … back in 1989.
Legal assistants are there to — surprise, surprise — assist lawyers, so new associates should not be afraid to ask for help. That was my problem as a new associate. I suffered from a common syndrome of the self-reliant: “It will only take me a minute” to make copies, clear this paper jam, figure out how all these certified mail stickers are supposed to fit on this envelope, etc. Self-sufficient and polite? Sure. A fantastic waste of the client’s money? Quite possibly. Knowing what to do oneself and what to delegate is something most law schools don’t teach, but it is key to performing effectively as an attorney.
That said, new associates should remember that many attorneys need something copied, e-filed, proofread or transcribed. Assistants appreciate lawyers who understand the competing demands on their time. Remember, no one is too busy for “please” and “thank you.”

It’s always a positive to see legal professionals promoting mutual respect, common courtesy and working together as a team. For anyone new to the practice of law, an experienced paralegal, legal assistant or legal secretary can be an invaluable source of information and hands-on training – not only about the intricacies of the firm copier and the U.S. Postal Service, but about the daily and essential practice of law as well, including identifying court resources, preparing documents and using specialized software.

3 Responses to An Associate Discusses Communicating with Legal Assistants

  1. New associates should recognize the invaluable assistance they can obtain from an experienced legal assistant. Legal assistants in law firms may know as much or more than the lawyers at the firm with regard to the practical aspects of the practice. Associates who understand how to work effectively with non-lawyer legal professionals will quickly become prized in the firm because of their ability to quickly and efficiently complete assignments.

  2. Thankyou for boosting my morals, i was beginning to take my framed degree off the wall which is collecting dust (no experience no job). you gave me a new sense of pride for my profession. Therefore,will get back on that horse and proudly proclaim that i am a paralegal.

  3. Paralegals have become more and more recognized as time goes by. I really appreciate someone who understands this. Many people may think of paralegals as glorified legal secretaries, but we are so much more. Paralegals are the backbone of any good legal "team". I emphasize team, becuase that is what represents a client. I would also like to comment on Lisa's comment that associates who understand how to work effectively with paralegal get things done quickly and efficiently. Thank you for everything.

Contact Info:

Lynne J. DeVenny, N.C. State Bar Certified Paralegal

Owner & Virtual Paralegal, DeVenny Paralegal Services

Email: lynne.devenny[at]

Telephone: 336-582-0003

Inquiries are welcome, with free quotes available.

Meet Lynne:

Lynne DeVenny is a North Carolina State Bar Certified Paralegal with over 27 years of experience working on complex litigation cases, including medical malpractice, personal injury, workers’ compensation, and Social Security disability.

Disclosure: I am not a lawyer and cannot provide legal representation or legal advice.

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