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Until such time as both sides step back and learn the art of business relationships, effective communication, and good feedback skills, the working relationship will suffer and both sides will have great stress.
Lawyers tend to underestimate the project, tend to assume that the paralegal understands what needs to be done, doesn’t allow time for questions, doesn’t give information, and then when the project is not delivered as the lawyer thought tends to judge the paralegal on lack of performance. Part of what I do is to resolve conflict within a workplace, attempt to establish a positive work culture, and establish relationships that allow everyone to work effectively in an open and honest atmosphere.
Lawyers first and foremost are analytical thinkers. They are given a problem (legal issue) and they must analyze the problem and divide it into key components and then figure out how to resolve the problem. They think through the project at hand, think what process is needed to accomplish the project, organize it and proceed.
The lawyer doesn’t care about the process and thus does not understand how to translate the analysis of the problem and the required needs into a way the paralegal can assume control.
Yet, if there is ever a time and a place and a need for both to be on the same page, it is with the relationship and communication skills that exist between lawyers and paralegals.
Lawyers still do not know how to use paralegals and some are threatened that a non-lawyer can be used at such a high level.
It is a two-way street between a lawyer and a paralegal.
It is important to understand some history in the legal field before you can began to understand why no one is talking the same language. Unless they are unusual, they have not been taught business principles, the core of which is good management of personnel and resources. Through training, education and experience they have the skills to accomplish the task at hand. They take this information and figure out what needs to be done.
Such a relationship is wrong and interferes with perception of you as a professional by others. They don’t want to hear how your children are in a blow-by-blow description, nor do they want to know the latest crisis in your life. You do not get raises or promotions based upon how personally tied the lawyer is to you.
The easiest way is to simply tell you this – a good paralegal leaves personal matters at home. By the same token, I get worried when I find a paralegal who knows every personal detail of her lawyer’s life and is proud she has involvement. Good employers are not responsible for your personal happiness. In fact, my personal opinion is that the traditional non-lawyer who has so developed a relationship that involves deep personal interest in the lawyer’s life to the extent you are a confident is at the low range of salary and promotions.
If you come in the door, immediately seek out your lawyer to tell him or her the latest disaster or latest gossip, or you demand to know what happened in his or her life from the night before, you are dead wrong. If you want professional respect, you act professionally.