Time Is Not Your Own – Q4 2023 Facts & Findings

Whether it is Better Call Saul, Law & Order, Suits, or Legally Blonde, Hollywood has the ability to make a career in the legal field look like every day is an action-packed, edge-of-your-seat thrill ride with a soundtrack to accompany every moment. However, working in the legal field looks much different than Hollywood portrays. Be prepared to research, write, and build a case that will get your client the best result. Here are a few things I learned when I began my career as a paralegal.

Learn to embrace change and become comfortable with the fact that, sometimes, what we plan does not always happen perfectly. Whether it is a trial that gets canceled or a client who shows up an hour early for an appointment, it is always beneficial to be flexible with your day. Be prepared to drop everything if an urgent task lands in your inbox. Over time, as you become more adaptable, you will learn to remain calm in situations that would have been stressful for you in the past.

Every attorney is different. Some love the courtroom, and some never want to step foot in a courthouse. As a paralegal, one of your first tasks should be to simply get to know your attorney. Learn how your strengths can complement their weaknesses, and how you can make their day go as smoothly as possible. A mutually beneficial attorney-paralegal team is important to ensure your client has the best representation possible.

Attorneys are busy, and they rely on having a strong paralegal. Take ownership of your role, and take pride in knowing the facts of your case. The best ways to do this are organization, excellent case management, accountability, and professionalism. If you draft a document for your attorney to review, they should be confident that you proofread it several times before sending it to them. If your client calls you, they should be confident that you will know the facts of their case.

One of the best aspects of being a paralegal is that you have the ability to network with every interaction you have. Build a rapport with the paralegals of the opposing counsel on your case. Build a rapport with the clerks as you call them each week. Build a rapport with other attorneys. Creating positive relationships with other professionals in the legal community can lead to mentorship opportunities, career opportunities, and client referrals, just to name a few. Never take these interactions for granted.

As a paralegal, you can never ask too many questions. If anyone ever says that you ask too many questions, you are not in the right place. No question is ever too silly or embarrassing to be asked, and it is always more efficient than making a mistake that could have been prevented. Along with asking questions, always search for ways to expand your knowledge. Laws and procedures are constantly evolving, and it is imperative that you are privy to any updates that are relevant to your practice area, state, and county. Frequently seek out opportunities for continuing education in areas that excite you and reignite your passion for the legal field.

The biggest lesson you will learn in your first year as a paralegal is that time is not your own. As a paralegal, your job is to support your attorneys. Their priorities become your priorities. Also, every client is responsible for the continued success of the firm. Therefore, the client’s priorities are also your priorities. As a paralegal, you may find that one of your biggest challenges is finding time to give everyone your attention. The only solution is to become skilled at prioritizing. Try to begin each day by creating a task list with action items for the day in order of importance. While you will likely get pulled away as the day progresses, having a list that you can see will not only help you plan your day, but it will also allow you to see how much you have completed.

Even though time is not your own when you are in the office, it is vital that you still make time for yourself. Working in the legal field is extremely demanding and can be emotionally taxing, depending on the area of law you choose. Always make time to focus on your work-life balance. Even when your workday is busy, still make time to relax and enjoy the hobbies you love outside of work. If you are not the best version of yourself, how can you expect to help others? Take care of yourself, and know that you have got this!

As a team, paralegals and attorneys work collectively to achieve outstanding results for each client, while also fostering a sense of purpose in being able to advocate for others. If you are just joining the world of being a paralegal, welcome to one of the most rewarding professions. Be unrelenting in producing excellent work, and always go above and beyond for your clients. While every day may not be an action-packed, edge-of-your-seat thrill ride, you still have the opportunity to make a positive impact in someone’s life.

Author Biography: Johnnathan Ruff is a litigation paralegal and office manager at Flanagan Law, PC, which specializes in personal injury (including auto accidents), wrongful death, and premise liability. Johnnathan is a graduate of Western Carolina University and has experience that spans North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. Email: jr@bflanlaw.com