If this is your first grown-up job, almost every support staff person knows more than you. You may know more about some abstract points of law, but they know:
- Where the courthouses are and how to submit documents on time and in the correct format;
- All about individual clients, their businesses, their legal problems, and their expectations;
- The five things that most annoy the attorneys for whom they (and you) work;
- Who will return your texts and who has never, ever texted;
- How all of the office equipment works;
- How to get extra help for emergency projects;
- Who is “in” and who is “on the way out;”
- What errors that you might make (unintentionally) that might cost you your job; and
- Much, much more.
4 ways to sync with support staff: all about communication
Telepathy is not in anyone’s job description. If you don’t share information, your work (and your status as an employed person) will suffer.
1. Share your daily schedule: all of it. You need not reveal all of the personal specifics (your appointments with your shrink, etc.), but your availability needs to be on the calendar that you share. The administrative assistant who you share with lawyers and other law clerks is not a mind reader. When will you be in the office? People may look for you, and it reflects poorly on you if your assistant always says “I don’t know where he is.”
2. Share your project schedule and keep it updated. After getting an assignment, the first thing you must do is share the deadlines with your assistant. Because yours is not the only work that she handles, she may need to recruit extra help when six lawyers and clerks have documents due at the same time. Keep the shared project schedule updated.
3. No surprises. If you have known about a deadline for weeks, it is inexcusable to surprise your assistant with a large document at 3 p.m. and demand that it be completed by 5 p.m. You may get away with this once. A second bite at that apple will insure that you have a terrible reputation with support staff.
Consequences of too many surprises. A terrible reputation may lead to unenthusiastic cooperation. While sabotage is unlikely, no one will jump at the chance to work for you. People will notice you, and not in a good way.
4. Say “Please” and “Thank you”
No explanation required.