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We reached out to two successful legal staff members across the country to find out what it takes to be successful in this field. Hopefully you benefit as much as we did from this advice on how to be a successful legal staff member:
I have 6 years of experience as a paralegal, and now I am a newly barred attorney. To be a successful legal staff member, you really have to be a proactive person. You cannot become complacent in your work because that is when dates and client communication go down the drain. When you have a proactive legal staff member, he or she will make sure the attorneys stay on track, and never miss a beat in a case. He or she will make sure there is file organization within the office, clients are informed on their case status, and similar matters.
Ciara Vesey, J.D., M.P.A.
In order to stand out in a law firm as a staffer, the aim cannot be to stand out above the rest; instead the aim is simply make everyone else stand out. I take it upon myself to make sure everyone, both attorneys and support staff, have what they need to succeed. I do this by being efficient and proficient in my work, approaching projects with an analytical mindset, thinking critically, being dependable, and having strong attention to detail. If middle children are known to be the peace makers, paralegals should be the metaphorical middle child in any firm because it is their task to do whatever they can to remedy current problems and prevent future issues. The best paralegals keep the peace, are reliable employees and patient co-workers. As the key support staff in a law firm, paralegals must develop thick skin, leave their egos at the door, and listen well. In essence, paralegals have the dubious job of creating and maintaining an environment where communication is valued and developed.
The field of law invites a variety of personalities. To be successful, any support staff must know the interoffice dynamic and realize that everyone is different. The old axiom, "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is especially applicable in a small law firm setting because each member of the team will eventually require patience and respect of his or her colleagues to learn, grow and do a good job for the client. Ultimately, embracing differences in personalities allows the firm to utilize each person's strengths for the betterment of the firm.