The actions you take on a regular basis can either set you up for success or failure. You can thrive in your career by following the habits of today's successful paralegals:
1. They Set Reminders
Successful paralegals realize that, while they are superheroes, they do have limitations. Take the guesswork out of the equation by associating nearly every task you perform with a reminder, whether following up with a client, or checking service on a lawsuit you just filed. Make use of technology by typing in a task that will pop up at a scheduled time to remind you (Microsoft Outlook Tasks are perfect for this).
2. They Set the Case Up for Success
Have you ever needed to draft and file an emergency pleading? If you work in litigation, chances are that you have. Help out your future self at the beginning of the case by getting in the habit of creating forms, templates and contact sheets so when an emergency pops up, you will be able to quickly and easily put out the fire.
3. They Keep Their Clients Informed
One of the best ways to reflect well on yourself, your attorney and your firm is to keep the client informed of the status of their case. This may involve a simple email or phone call letting them know the step recently taken or may involve a longer detailed report. An informed client is a happy client and happy clients equal a successful career. You may be able to use the client as a reference down the road!
4. They Regularly Refresh Their Knowledge of Court Rules
Courts frequently change their fees, rules and requirements. Make a yearly habit out of checking the rules for the courts you frequently file pleadings with for changes to the procedures and court fees. You never want to have a pleading rejected for failure to comply with a recently revised rule.
5. They Follow Up
The difference between a paralegal who cares and one who just shows up for the paycheck is the paralegal who takes the initiative to follow up. Don't find yourself the week before trial without the certified exhibit that you requested six months ago because the letter never got delivered. As soon as you request information, set a reminder to follow up on the status.
6. They Regularly Review Upcoming Deadlines
You suddenly realize that today is the deadline to file a pleading, however your attorney is out of town with no way to review a draft. Or perhaps you find yourself on the day discovery responses are due but you are lacking important information from the client. Review upcoming deadlines at least a week ahead so you can get a start on what you need. Beginning or ending the week with a review of the following week’s deadlines is a great way to ensure the deadline will be met.
7. They Frequently Make Use of Outside Resources
The fast-track to career burnout is by attempting to do all tasks without asking for any outside help. This could even turn into legal malpractice if deadlines are not being met because there is not enough time to complete all of the tasks. Need to make multiple copies of 3000+ pages needed for trial exhibits? Send it out to a copy service. Need to investigate a claimant’s Facebook account? Have an investigator do that and even more by pulling and summarizing Facebook and relevant background information.
8. They Make Use of Down Time
While rare, there can be an occasional slow period in the workload, perhaps around the holidays. Make the best use of these moments. You could set up forms, make a checklist for yourself, organize your workspace or close files. You’ll thank yourself when the workload is heavier.
9. They Take the Initiative
Your attorney has a lot on his/her plate. Don’t distract them with frivolous interruptions and obvious questions. See an upcoming deadline? Prepare a draft for your attorney’s review. Remember that your attorney is responsible for the final product, so be careful not to cross the line into the unauthorized practice of law.
10. They Keep Their Attorney Informed
It isn’t necessary to bother your attorney with every frivolous detail but you should share important updates about the case. Let your attorney know about important incoming information. He or she may need to make a quick decision about an issue and your communication will set them up for success.