Congratulations on getting that job with the law firm!
Whether you are an attorney, paralegal, law clerk, secretary, office manager or other member of a legal team, these seven tips will pave the way to making you memorable from the first day:
1. Be kind and polite to everyone.
From the most senior named partner to the most junior level employee – mailroom personnel, the copy service center, messengers, or
even firm vendors – treating everyone with kindness will make you stand out. If this firm turns out not to be a fit, any one of them may be the key to finding your dream job.
2. Say “please” and “thank you.”
Good manners are the “grease” that ensure likability. If someone goes out of his/her way to help you, show your appreciation with a thank you note, coffee gift card, or flowers. These small gestures will be remembered, especially when you need assistance again.
3. If you make a mistake, own up to it and offer solutions to correct it.
Blaming others for something you did or did not do will result in distrust and create a toxic environment. On the other hand, accepting responsibility for a blunder, sincerely apologizing, and offering solutions will engender respect and help create a positive atmosphere. Later, during reviews, or when the firm is looking to create a new position, your trustworthiness and initiative in resolving issues may be key factors in your getting a raise or the job.
4. Do your homework.
If you have a pending matter and are unsure how the court will handle it, check the court’s calendar for any matters similar to yours that are set for a hearing. If possible, go watch the proceedings. This will give you a feel for what to expect when you are in court, how the judge handles the courtroom, and what a possible outcome for your matter may be. You may hear arguments you may not have thought of that may help your client, and you will be better prepared if those same arguments are used against you.
5. Court personnel can be your best friends when there is a time crunch.
Budget cuts have resulted in clerks taking on additional responsibilities. Speaking to them with courtesy and respect while you are filing papers, setting up the courtroom for trial, or asking for a continuance will bode well if you need something from them in the future, such as a last-minute filing or needing to be squeezed onto the court’s calendar at the last minute. These professionals can be your best friend and make you look like a hero to your co-workers.
6. Stay calm, cool and collected in times of crisis.
Keeping your head and maintaining a calm demeanor will help your clients and team members also calm down.
7. Do not take things personally.
Clients who are dealing with an attorney for the first time can get emotional about the process and take it out on you. Addressing their underlying needs for support and reassurance will help ease their stress and result in a loyal client who will refer other clients, resulting in a win-win experience for you and the firm.
Remembering your manners, maintaining a sense of humor and keeping a level head in times of crisis will go a long way to creating a successful legal career.
Victoria Newman, RP®, is the chair of BASF’s Paralegal Section.