For all attorneys, whether you bill by the hour or are strictly contingent, the adage “time is money” is absolutely true. It takes time to effectively do our jobs, and we are constantly looking for ways to make our daily processes more efficient. Efficiency is of utmost importance.
In my experience, attorneys do not utilize all the tools out there to make their jobs easier. I will be working on a series of posts about becoming more efficient workers starting with a discussion about your greatest tool – your paralegal.
Over the last month I’ve seen a barrage of articles discussing client needs and how attorneys should be sensitive to those needs. Some clients are needier than others – they need phone calls, emails, and letters. Some clients simply don’t want to know what’s going on, they just want to know that you’re handling it. Communicating with clients who need attention is something your paralegal is (should be) equipped to do. Let her. Keep your paralegal in the loop, and she can keep the client in the loop. You need not take every phone call, respond to every email, or draft every letter. You (hopefully) hired a competent assistant, don’t let her skills go to waste.
The best thing you can do for yourself is to let your paralegal set up and draft documents for you. Let her take the first stab. Let her plug-in important facts, dates, times, etc. It’s easier for you to delete unnecessary information than it is to leave gaps in your writing to come back and fill in later.
If your paralegal isn’t around, for whatever reason, to set a document up for you, please don’t try. There is nothing more frustrating than having to go back and change styles on a 10-20 page document after all the text is added. Unless you are a master of styles and document production, just type up the document without formatting, and let your paralegal do the organizing, formatting, etc.
Hopefully, you hired a paralegal with killer skills. If so, trust her judgment on some things. Just because we don’t have J.D.’s doesn’t mean we’re idiots. (I like to think we didn’t get J.D.’s because we were smart enough to avoid it.) When interviewing for my last job, I was asked about my work ethic. My response: my job is to make your life easier.
And that is exactly how I feel about my job. I’m here to help my attorneys make better use of their time, to make things run smoother, to be someone they can depend on. They have to trust me. Trust your paralegal, and she’ll be your best asset in becoming a well-oiled machine.