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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, January 25, 2010


In recent weeks, I've had cause to imagine myself working in a different city, at a different firm, with (or for, depending on the situation) a different attorney (or attorneys). This idea scares me because frankly, I have it made right now. I am a very picky employee, and my current professional situation is about as perfect as I could ever expect. The work is challenging and fast-paced. Every case is different. The Boss respects me and my contributions. He voices his appreciation regularly. We are a team. Sometimes I think sole practitioners understand the value of their assistants better than any other attorneys possibly could. To the sole practitioner, his paralegal is his right-hand man, responsible for everything from phone calls to bookkeeping to research and writing to the docket calendar. I value that relationship. I like knowing that what I do is important because it makes me work that much harder.

If I were to change jobs, could I ever find this again? Would I even feel as though I had the right to expect it? I am sure I could find a job, but would I be just another legal assistant to an overworked associate? Would my presence, my contributions, my work ethic matter? Or would I be expendable?

I went to a conference this past weekend, where I learned several things:

(1) I don't like it when speakers, lawyers and judges no less, make sexist comments while giving their presentations. I like it even less when the women around me laugh and smile at such comments.
(2) Apparently several attorneys in my state and local area do not "allow" their secretaries and paralegals to be involved in the local NALS and NALA affiliates. I have several thoughts on this matter. First, who is my Boss to tell me which organizations I may or may not belong to outside of work? Second, at what point did these lawyers decide that professional development for staff members is a bad thing, and what led them to this conclusion? I have said it before and I will say it again, if I ever have people working for me, I will want the smartest, most capable people I can find who are interested in growing their skills. I cannot find a single thing wrong with those characteristics.
(3) The answer one of our speakers gave to the sometimes problem of seasoned paralegals working with problem attorneys was to "have patience" and "try to help him however you can." If you have tried reaching out to this problem lawyer, and then tried reaching out to his boss, with no success, then my own answer would be to find another job. If 90% of lawyers are decent people with at least average people skills (and I bet the percentage is higher than that), then let the young buck with an ego problem learn on his own how not to treat people while you enjoy a productive work relationship with someone who puts the "civil" in "civil procedure." I am spoiled by my awesome Boss, I know, but we should not reward disrespect and anger management issues with subordination and meek obedience. This is a lesson for people in all types of situations, not only for legal professionals. We must be engaged and interested in our work. But to do so means that we must realize ourselves as part of a team, not as work mules being prodded and whipped by the inexperienced plow boy. I am a huge fan of communication. If you do not work in an environment where you can communicate any issues you have and be heard, then it's probably time to find a place where you can.

My fear is that if I do have to find another job, I will get stuck with a sexist boss, or a nonsupportive boss, or a boss who likes to yell and assert authority just for the heck of it, who does not know how to communicate in an effective and productive way. I worry because even though I know these are the exceptions to the rule, the exceptions exist, like land mines waiting silently for me to take an errant step.


  1. I am in a similar position. I work for a very small firm (my boss, plus an associate). I handle both paralegal and administrative duties. I know I am appreciated. The only downfall is it's a 52-mile commute per day which is difficult when you're a working mother (I also work in family law, which I don't like). I have thought of finding work closer to home, but I dread the thought of working for someone who does not value what I do.

  2. Hi there,

    Just wanted to let you know I'm a big fan of your blog. As a paralegal studies student at Loyola in Chicago, it's just great to learn about how people deal with the challenges of the profession. The thing that sets your blog apart is the humor. A lot of the professional sites I read are so dry. Not yours though.

    Anyhow, welcome to the blogroll.