Listen from the bottom up

In the grand scheme of things, I am simply a lowly paralegal. As far as law firm hierarchy is concerned, I’m near the bottom.  Historically, those at the bottom do more of the grunt work. We work more closely with the hardware and software inside the firm.

Sure, today’s attorneys are more hands-on with their work product. You don’t see too many young attorneys dictating their letters, motions, pleadings, discovery, etc. – they are generally comfortable enough to type things up themselves.  They are also more comfortable with the internet and web-based programs than their older counterparts.  However, in the day-to-day existence of the firm, paralegals, legal secretaries, and other staff do most of the leg work.  We scan, copy, upload, download, sync, mark up, notate, and draft.

You’re probably thinking, “Yes. I know that. So what?” When you and/or your firm consider updating, changing, or installing anything new, listen from the bottom up.  As an attorney, administrator, or managing paralegal, consider how this change will affect those at all levels of the firm.  Sure, that new software looks so handy, but if your support staff find it cumbersome and useless, it’s not going to work to its full potential.

Consider something as simple as upgrading your office products.  Roll it out to support staff first (or at least give them more training on the front end) because they’re the ones using it the most.  They need to become more productive quicker than anyone else in the firm.

Ask your support staff questions, bring them in to look at this new software/hardware, and let them play on it before you commit to the purchase.  If what you have works fine, and they’re comfortable with it, make sure to weigh the inevitable learning curve against the potential productivity.

Like I’ve said before, there is something to be said for mandating your office do something or use something a particular way, but the less you can “mandate” and the more you get your support staff behind a change, the better off everyone will be in the long run.

2 thoughts on “Listen from the bottom up

  1. Gordon Rae

    Looking after “users” is my thing and my advice is to ignore the brochure and the vendor’s sales pitch, and treat your own IT guys the way a defense attorney would treat the police. What really counts about software is what ordinary folks do with it when there aren’t any IT guys in the room, and the result I always want to see is when some of the support staff have gotten the hang of the software and have started teaching others what to do with it. When you’ve reached that point (which you find out about by listening from the bottom up, like you said)then you have something worth mandating and investing in. But unless there’s some contagious energy that you can worth with, imposing a solution will be like rolling a boulder up a hill.

    1. haleymac Post author

      Absolutely. The everyday, heavy user (often lower on the totem pole) needs to be considered first. Their opinion is the one should/could make or break a software or hardware purchase for a business.


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