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Memphis, Tennessee, United States
Small town paralegal in the city. Once ran a law office, now being run by one. Med mal defense litigation. I think it's growing on me.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Race Against Time

In my job as a paralegal, I am nearly perfect. I'm not gloating - I did say "nearly" after all.

Hyperbole aside, I feel like I'm pretty good at keeping the office moving forward. I am a fast worker who can turn around assignments like that. Since you can't see it, like that is really fast. I also try to be thorough and complete. I try to jump on tasks before being asked. As soon as we win a default judgment, I try to prepare the collection paperwork.

It is my job in our office to keep track of the progress of major client collection cases. We represent several HOAs and landlords that are in constant needs of these services. On these cases, my job is to make sure they move. We don't want to end up sitting on a case that does not get scheduled for trial because the defendant never answers and we forget to move for a default judgment. So I calendar and check and draft letters telling people they have 14 days to respond to us before we file a complaint. And when we file, I keep up with service, and if service fails, I try again. And once they are served, they usually don't answer and we move for the default. Okay. So, as I was saying, I'm pretty decent at this and many other daily tasks.

One thing I am not good at is babysitting the Boss. I know, I know, it's part of my job. Or rather, most people think it should be. I've said before that he gets his own coffee, and ties his own shoes. But the longer I work with him, the more dependent he becomes on me... which is a good thing. A great thing even. I still have a job in a bad economy because of this very fact. But I only recently came to realize that he really really does need me to mention things like the deposition tomorrow morning or court next Monday. Not because he's incompetent or wants to be babied -but because his plate is full and the Now work keeps him from checking on the Later list.

I figured this out when the same situation occurred twice within a two week period. He came in one Monday morning right after I arrived. I had just made coffee and had not turned on my computer yet. We did the morning chat thing for a few minutes while he sat down and got ready to assign me something. Then suddenly "Oh crap." He had a deposition in fifteen minutes.

The Boss went flying out the door and I sat there wondering why I hadn't remembered. After all, part of my job is to know what the Boss needs before he knows he needs it, isn't it? #ParalegalFail

One evening the next week, I was clearing off my desk and getting ready to leave. The Boss was in his office doing the same when, "Wow, glad I checked the schedule. Hearing tomorrow morning at 8:30." #MajorFailAgain

But at that moment, I took out a yellow Post-It and wrote "Check next day before you leave!" This Post-It has saved my life if not his several times now. Because it is sitting there right by my phone, it encourages me to check the next day several times. It even encourages me to check the next week and even the next month. But most importantly, the next day. I have no way of knowing if my reminders are helping the Boss keep track of important dates, but I like to think that he was on time for his 9 am status conference this morning because he received the email I sent Friday evening before leaving the office.

My Boss was self-sufficient for so long, and still is in many ways. Still, I've begun to notice how much I do for him and the firm these days compared to one year ago. I enjoy the responsibility and the sense of fulfillment that comes with being someone's Number Two. But at the same time, each day marks a new way he relies on me. And every little thing I forget, each tiny mistake I make, feels like a major letdown on my part. It seems silly to be so involved in how good or sucky I am at my job in our little office. You big firm people would probably laugh at me. But it's terribly important to me that I am the best paralegal, the best all around assistant that I can be, even as my responsibilities grow and evolve.

That's why I have the Post-It. It won't be the last of them, I'm sure. With my new system in place (better late than never), at least the Boss shouldn't have to race away at lightening speed to make it to early morning appointments anymore.


  1. This is so good and SO TRUE! Being able to admit our weaknesses is a sure sign of a great leader so don't feel bad at all! We all have them (I have MANY of them!!). And bosses (Lord love them) can be high maintenance. Especially the lawyer variety! You sound like you have a handle on the situation and your boss should be proud to have you watching his back. You go girl!

  2. Hi Melissa,

    Interesting, thoughtful post. You are obviously conscientious and well suited to your job. Being one or two steps ahead and a can-do attitude are key to success as a paralegal.

    I can identify with the pressure after having kept tickler systems in a transactional environment. The clock starts ticking on the deadlines within a contract the minute it is fully executed, and if you or your attorney miss even one critical delivery date, it puts your client at risk for default. Post-it reminders are good because they're right there in front of you (often, especially when you're swamped, there's a risk of "out of sight, out of mind"), and Outlook calendar reminders are helpful as well.

  3. Having years of experience managing deans I can tell you from experience that you have to figure out what works best for your boss. Will e-mail type reminders (think outlook) work or does he need a verbal prod? I've had to deal with both.

    One thing I like about my position now is that I don't have to babysit anyone but myself.