It is not unfair to say that many lawyers work in a state of “organized chaos”. It might even be more accurate to say that there are lawyers who work in absolute chaos. To really be noticed, it is not enough to be organized yourself. The best legal assistants become indispensable by organizing the people for whom they are working.
If you understand techniques for managing your own workload – e.g., using diaries, time sheets, planners, to-do lists and schedules to prioritize tasks – then help your boss to use these techniques, as well. Many professionals are not good at managing their time, so if you can do this for them, you will be worth your weight in gold.
Be ready and able to make changes
If you are happy to drift along in work and be told what to do, you are unlikely to stand out. On the other hand, if you have energy, enthusiasm and ideas of your own, you can make yourself an asset to your organization. Take the point from above about organizing those around you. Just having the thought that this would be a good idea is not enough. You need to convince others that your approach is best. The best legal assistants who worked for me were able to see when something could be done more efficiently and then convince me that their changes were a good idea. Sometimes they were so good at influencing me that I would think the idea to change the way I worked was mine in the first place! If you want to improve your ability to influence others and “sell” your ideas, learn to ask and use questions effectively and listen to what you are being told.
Continue developing your skills as a professional
It goes without saying that to get ahead in a law firm you should be professional in appearance, but there are other ways to demonstrate to those you work for that you are a professional. One definition of a professional is someone who exhibits great skills – an expert. If you are a competent legal assistant, you will already be an expert typist and administrator. To be a great legal assistant, however, you should be willing to develop extra skills. The best firms will encourage you to do this, as they know it is in their own interests to have a highly skilled workforce. Consider obtaining additional IT or legal qualifications. If you are working in a particular area of law, consider seeking higher qualification relevant to that area. It is possible to develop your role from that of a legal assistant into a full-fledged fee-earner, provided you are willing to spend the time obtaining the professional qualifications.
These are just a few suggestions that could make you not only a great legal assistant, but also someone who is indispensable.
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Source: The Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs / “Steps to Being a Successful Legal Secretary“ / By Seamus Ryan