Several years ago, I was visiting my friend who is a veterinarian. At the end of a patient visit, as the pet owner left the clinic, she told her receptionist in a low voice, “Blue dot.”
“What’s a blue dot?” I asked.
“Blue dots are for jerks,” she replied.
As paralegals, the day-to-day work of our jobs can be stressful. At any given time, you may be covering for the receptionist, dealing with couriers, answering emails, proofreading letters, assembling discovery— all while trying to get someone at the court to pick up the phone.
It’s easy to let frustration seep into these interactions, but resist the temptation to snap. Remember to be kind to everyone – the security guards in your building, calendar clerks, bike messengers, opposing counsel, and the copy machine repair people. Here’s a small example of kindness in action:
Several years ago, the attorney I supported at another firm overheard me speaking on the phone to opposing counsel in a very contentious case. As I laughed and joked with her, I could see my boss losing it: His face was getting red, and I could see a vein in his temple pulsing. When the call was over, he ripped into me: “Why on earth are you being so friendly to someone who’s making my life miserable?”
A week later, I needed to ask that same opposing counsel for a document that was somehow missing from our files. I needed it right away and didn’t have time to get it from the court. She sent it to me immediately. Did my attorney apologize for his previous behavior or thank me? No.
First and foremost, we are all human. It only takes a minute to offer your bike messenger a hot cup of coffee on a cold day or to ask another paralegal about his cat, and doing so allows you to establish a positive relationship.
As a paralegal, you’re constantly asking people to do things: Begging a clerk to squeeze a “short” hearing on the calendar, or imploring your bike messenger to peddle across town in 15 minutes. If you’ve already established a relationship with the person of whom you’re asking a favor, it’s much more likely to be granted.
The Golden Rule applies in business too: Treat others as you would like to be treated because you never know when you might need them.
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