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On the Paralegal Job: The First Thirty Days

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The purpose of this section is to walk you through the first thirty days of your new job as a paralegal. It describes what happens once you are hired and walk through the door, based on actual accounts of people who have been there.

Most of your time and energy up until this point has been devoted to the job search and all the tasks that are required. Once you have a job, you can begin to think about what you will be doing when you start working. You may understandably have questions about the job and the organization, concerns about your capabilities and overwhelming anxieties about starting a new position.


There many questions that other paralegals have asked or wish they had asked as they began working. Some may seem obvious, and others may not have occurred to you. You may wonder where to begin asking. The questions included here are general in nature. Responses to these questions and additional advice from paralegals are also given. Obviously, each job is unique and each new paralegal will have questions about his or her particular situation. Add your own questions, issues, and concerns may be raised.

As you think about your questions and concerns and read these personal accounts, the anxiety you feel about your first days at work will probably lessen. Remember to rely on the same principles you used in the job search: The better prepared you are, the more successful you are likely to be.

These are systematic guide to becoming a successful paralegal once you have a job.

Questions to Ask Before the First Day

What time should you start work?

What is the exact location to which you should report?

What is the name of the person to whom you should report?

Before the first day of work, be sure you know the answers to the above questions. When you leave for work, allow enough time to arrive early. It is not proper to be early for an interview, but you do not need to be afraid to be too early for work. You cannot afford to be late. Excuses are not acceptable. If you know that a train or bus sometimes runs late, take an earlier one. If you will be driving during rush hour, allow plenty of time to make the trip and to find a place to park.

Remember that your demeanour on the first day of work is the first impression you will make on your colleagues. They will expect you to be a bit nervous, but if you are late, you will make a negative impression, and in the early stages of the new job, you want to do everything you can to create a positive impression. Initial impressions are very important, so make every effort to make a positive one by what you say and how you behave.

Questions to Ask as You Begin Working

Some information is essential for you to know when you start a new job. This is the time to ask all the questions you need to ask to clarify your position. The other employees will expect you to ask questions. If you have thought through these questions before you begin working, you will not have to interrupt anyone, repeatedly. If you do not understand the answers, now is the time to clarify any confusion about your duties or responsibilities. You will not be faulted for asking questions, many questions, especially in the beginning. You will be responsible for knowing the answers to important questions, particularly as you gain experience on the job. It is up to you to find out where to get these answers.

1. Find out where things are:
 
  • What is the layout of the office?
  • Where are the attorneys' offices, especially the attorneys with whom you will be working?
  • Where are the washrooms and lunchrooms?
  • Where are the most convenient restaurants?
  • Where is the best place to park?

2. Find out about office policies and procedures:
 
  • How is the payroll handled?
  • What deductions will be taken out of your pay check?
  • What forms do you need to fill out?
  • What is the policy on sick days and emergencies?
  • What insurance benefits are you entitled to receive?

3. Find out about your supervisor and work assignments:
 
  • Who are the attorneys with whom you will be working? (Find their offices and introduce yourself.)
  • Who is your immediate supervisor?
  • Who will be giving you work assignments?
  • Who is the best person to talk to when you have questions about your work?

4. Find out about policies regarding confidentiality:
 
  • What are the guidelines on confidentiality?
  • Can files be taken out of the office if you want to work on them at home?
  • What can or cannot be discussed outside the office?

5. Find out about billing procedures:
 
  • What is the billing procedure for time and materials, including photocopying materials and phone calls?
  • Are these expenses billed to the client?
  • If so, is there a billing code that should be used?

6. Find out about support services:
 
  • Where are the offices of the secretarial and other support staff?
  • Are you entitled to ask for clerical assistance?

7. Find out about office supplies:
 
  • Where is the office supplies kept?
  • What is the procedure for requisitioning supplies?
  • How do the photocopying and fax machines work?
  • Who do you ask for assistance on these matters?

8. Find out about other things you would like to know:

Many other questions will arise once you begin working. Try to identify a reliable person and ask if it is all right to consult with him or her when you have a question.

A Word about the Support Staff

Learning to work with the support staff is extremely important! They can be immensely helpful to you. They usually know everything there is to know about office procedures and protocol. Respect them, and do not for-get to thank them for any assistance they give you.

In a large organization, the secretary or secretarial staff may work for several attorneys. Take into consideration the deadlines of others in the office, and be cooperative in establishing your own deadline. A secretary can be a great ally, so any effort you make to be considerate of his or her situation will eventually pay off.


About Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes is the founder of LawCrossing and an internationally recognized expert in attorney search and placement. Harrison is extremely committed to and passionate about the profession of legal placement. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placement attract millions of reads each year. LawCrossing has been ranked on the Inc. 500 twice. For more information, please visit Harrison Barnes’ bio.

About LawCrossing
LawCrossing has received tens of thousands of attorneys jobs and has been the leading legal job board in the United States for almost two decades. LawCrossing helps attorneys dramatically improve their careers by locating every legal job opening in the market. Unlike other job sites, LawCrossing consolidates every job in the legal market and posts jobs regardless of whether or not an employer is paying. LawCrossing takes your legal career seriously and understands the legal profession. For more information, please visit www.LawCrossing.com.

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Facts

LawCrossing Fact #197: LawCrossing lists opportunities ranging from entry-level jobs to executive-level positions.

 

Harrison Barnes does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for attorneys and law students each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can attend anonymously and ask questions about your career, this article, or any other legal career-related topics. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom

Harrison also does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for law firms, companies, and others who hire attorneys each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom

You can browse a list of past webinars here: Webinar Replays

You can also listen to Harrison Barnes Podcasts here: Attorney Career Advice Podcasts

You can also read Harrison Barnes' articles and books here: Harrison's Perspectives


Harrison Barnes is the legal profession's mentor and may be the only person in your legal career who will tell you why you are not reaching your full potential and what you really need to do to grow as an attorney--regardless of how much it hurts. If you prefer truth to stagnation, growth to comfort, and actionable ideas instead of fluffy concepts, you and Harrison will get along just fine. If, however, you want to stay where you are, talk about your past successes, and feel comfortable, Harrison is not for you.

Truly great mentors are like parents, doctors, therapists, spiritual figures, and others because in order to help you they need to expose you to pain and expose your weaknesses. But suppose you act on the advice and pain created by a mentor. In that case, you will become better: a better attorney, better employees, a better boss, know where you are going, and appreciate where you have been--you will hopefully also become a happier and better person. As you learn from Harrison, he hopes he will become your mentor.

To read more career and life advice articles visit Harrison's personal blog.

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