These Are My Confessions: Legal Assistant/Lawyer Relationships

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Dear Lawyer,

I'm taking a break. I'm taking a well deserved break to draft this letter I likely will not have a chance to send because you've forwarded me nine emails marked, URGENT and visited my desk six times in the last two minutes. It will take me sometime to prioritize your urgency and in doing so, I will have neglected something that is indeed urgent, but I digress.

Now, before you assume this is a bashing session, I can assure you it is not. I love my job! Most legal assistants and clerks do. I just want more. I want better for all of us and as it is a part of my job to catch the errors, pause the press, and regroup before disaster, I am applying the same courtesy to our work relationship.

Communication

I love that you take the time to cover my files with post-its and leave little instructions on how to proceed with each matter. However, sometimes I need more than just a single word or a few acronyms. Don't get me wrong, I like being independent, but some matters require detailed guidance. And when you've tossed another dense file among the others, it onsets a whirlwind of panic. Should I ask another question to get clarity? Should I just google it? Should I work on another file with uncertainty about how time-sensitive that one file is? Clearly, we both have communication issues, but your clarity will go a long way. If I ask a question, do not belittle me for my ignorance. Your files are our responsibility. If you neglect your obligation as a communicator, we fail. Know when to let me figure it out on my own and when to assist me. For example, if trial is tomorrow, today likely is not the ideal time for in-depth lessons on administrative forms.

Appreciation/Credit

I love when you return to the office and announce another victory. I am always proud of you... we're always proud. It's a team thing. But it would be nice to give me a little credit here and there for my contribution. I did stay all evening researching and drafting your closing arguments.. I did cancel my doctor's appointment to be your personal runner and file the materials at the courthouse to avoid missing your deadline.

I take fewer sick days, come in earlier and stay later than everyone to ensure your meetings are seamless. It's so easy to say, “well it's your job”. However, I am not so far removed from my psychological self to be indifferent to adulation. I know it's my job, but give me credit, especially when I've transcended my expressed obligations.

Admit When You're Wrong

Some things are your fault. Of course I can't tell you that if I would like to keep my job. I have watched you pace back and forth in the office accusing me of errors I knew I was not guilty of, but there was no room for my explanation without challenging your rank. It would be a welcomed change to acknowledge your shortcomings. I'm wrong on occasion as well. We are not saints.

Be Humble

Finally, do not make me feel like “the help”. I may not be your equal in position, but I am your equal in humanity. Do not disregard my efforts and abilities. Do not talk down to me because I have fewer letters beside my name. We should be able to lift each other up because the reality is if you don't have me, your world falls apart. I've seen it in the form of vacation days, conference absences, and sabbaticals. I know I am crucial to your operation and you are to mine.

I hope we can make this relationship work because I really do love my job and more than that, I admire you.

I trust the foregoing is sufficient for improving our work relationship and I will see you when you return to my desk with another file...oh, here you come now.

Sincerely,

Your Legal Assistant