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Advice from Paralegals

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There are some Questions on Sensitive Issues where it is necessary to get Advice from Paralegals.Some questions regarding joining new job may be delicate, and they deserve special consideration. The suggested responses are from experienced paralegals.
 
Advice from Paralegals

What if you receive one answer to a question during the job interview but a different answer when you start working?


You will have asked many questions during the interview, but the person who interviewed you may not be the person for whom you are working, and you may get different answers to the same question. Your responsibility is to the person for whom you are working. If this causes confusion, it is important that you ask for clarification immediately.

What if the job you are asked to do is not the job for which you were hired?

If you are asked to work on an assignment for which you are not prepared, it is important for you to ask the right questions. Don't agree immediately to do the assignment, but don't refuse to do it. Write down the instructions exactly. Tell the attorney that you have never handled such an assignment before (the attorney may not be aware of your experience or training) but that you are willing to do it with some guidance. If you don't think you are prepared to handle it, it is far better to be honest about this than to agree to do the assignment and fail. If you give the impression that you are willing to work and learn but are also honest about your skills and abilities, you will be establishing a reputation for reliability and conscientiousness.

What if you are working for several attorneys and each has an urgent deadline?

How do you set priorities?

Learn to say "no" tactfully to a new assignment if you are working to meet a deadline for another attorney. You may tell the second attorney that the new assignment will create a conflict for you because you are working on another assignment with an urgent deadline. At the same time, present an-other option. Ask if you could do it the next day, or whenever your dead-line for the first assignment will have been met. By offering to work on the assignment at a later time, you will not give the impression that you are trying to avoid more work. You will let the attorney know that you are trying to establish a schedule so that you can complete all the assignments you are asked to do.

What if you are given two assignments simultaneously?

Talk to the appropriate person about which one should have priority. In the early days on the job, there will a great temptation for you to try to do everything to impress your new employer. And while it is important to establish a reputation for conscientiousness, it is just as important to demonstrate how you work with varying deadlines and how well you can set priorities. In order to do this, you must know what is expected of you and understand your employer's priorities. You must find out this information as soon as possible if you are to succeed in your new position.

More Advice from Paralegals

Here are some general comments from paralegals regarding their first days on the job, how they felt, and what they wished they had known.

1. The most difficult or confusing aspects of my first few days on the job:
 
  • I did not know the organizational structure (the name of the managing partner; the hierarchy of attorneys and support staff).
  • I did not know the other paralegals. I wish someone had introduced me to them.
  • I did not know where to find supplies.
  • I wondered where everything was. A lot of law firms do not give orientations. Some have manuals, but the manuals may be outdated. Ask if your name should be put on a mailing list.
  • It was hard to get to know people (peers). You need to make the ef-fort to network. Don't wait to be introduced.

2. Things I wish I had known or someone had told me:
 
  • How to use the phone system.
  • How to address the attorneys in the law firm, whether some or all should be called by their first names.
  • That I had to sign in and out every day.
  • How much clerical work (i.e. typing) I would have to do.
  • How to dress professionally.
  • How much overtime I would be working.
  • That if you worked on Saturdays, you were entitled to a free lunch but that your name had to put on a list for this.
  • Exactly what my job duties would be. I would have asked more questions during the interview.
  • Where to find answers and how to find a mentor.
  • When preparing documents, how to date stamp documents and put them in chronological order.
  • That I had been more flexible.
  • That I had listened more and talked less.

3. Tips on what to avoid:
 
  • Do not be too opinionated or critical about the way things are done. You may have some good ideas about improving efficiency, but re-member that things have been done a certain way for a specific rea-son and even constructive criticisms" may alienate those who have been at the organization for some time.
  • Do not make judgment calls about your work. Ask for advice if you are not sure what to do.
  • Do not be unprofessional in your appearance, behavior, or the manner in which you address others in the organization. If you are not certain how to address someone, ask.
  • Do not make excuses for being late.
  • Do not think you must know everything at once. You will be expected to know how to do your job, but it is far better to ask questions than to demonstrate false confidence and make errors.

Planning for the Future

It is never too early to look toward the future, no matter whether you are an entry-level paralegal or an experienced one. Continuing legal education will help you succeed in your job and enable you to move ahead in the profession. These courses or programs frequently offered as seminars and designed specifically for paralegals, can be extremely valuable. They can help you to develop or update your skills and expertise, or to discover a new area you would like to pursue. Generally, the focus is on current is-sues and legislation in a particular legal specialty, such as real estate, the environment, intellectual property, consumer fraud, medical malpractice and many others. Check with your local universities or paralegal association for the location and availability of program offerings.

The Excitement and the Challenges of Your New Job

The first days of a new job can be exciting and even a bit overwhelming. Keep in mind that this is the job you worked so hard to get. You have the professional qualifications, training, and personal traits that convinced your employer to hire you. That should give you the self-confidence you need. You now have the opportunity to become the best paralegal you can be. Meet the challenge and enjoy the experience! Good luck!


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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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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About Harrison Barnes

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