The Blog Formerly Known As Practical Paralegalism
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.