What lawyer traits should you look for when considering a role with an attorney?
In a previous post, we examined the skills that attorneys look for when hiring a paralegal.
Today, we’re exploring the lawyer traits that paralegals need to look for when deciding to work with an attorney.
As a former paralegal, my legal background provides me with valuable insight into the industry.
In the over ten years I worked in law firms and legal departments, I learned some things about the traits that a supervising attorney needs to have to forge a solid working relationship with a paralegal.
Positive lawyer traits are crucial from a paralegal’s standpoint for several reasons.
Firstly, and most importantly, quality traits need to establish a foundation of trust between a paralegal and their supervising attorney.
This trust is essential for effective collaboration and ensures that the paralegal’s work aligns with ethical standards.
Effective communication is vital for clear instructions and a seamless workflow, enabling paralegals to carry out their responsibilities accurately.
Understanding and appreciating different cultures helps paralegals work effectively with a range of clients and colleagues, while adaptability in attorneys is beneficial for paralegals, as it allows for flexible responses to changing circumstances, fostering a dynamic and efficient work environment.
Furthermore, positive traits like organization and time management directly impact a paralegal’s workload and job satisfaction.
An organized attorney ensures that tasks are well-structured, making it easier for paralegals to manage their responsibilities effectively.
In essence, positive lawyer traits contribute to a conducive and collaborative work environment for you and for them, enabling paralegals to thrive in their roles and contribute meaningfully to the legal team’s success.
Here are some of my observations:
Working for an experienced attorney has many advantages, particularly if you’re looking to expand your skill set. Although there are no guarantees, a veteran attorney will typically:
Consequently, many paralegals prefer to work with an attorney who has at least a few years of experience under her belt.
Practical communication skills are essential for attorneys and also a vital component of a productive paralegal-attorney relationship. Because attorneys and paralegals often don’t speak the same language and don’t think the same way, listening skills for both are also critical.
To make a capable team, a lawyer needs to give direction to a paralegal, the paralegal needs to accept it, and both need to make their expectations regarding communication known.
As one of my former paralegal colleagues once said about her supervising attorney’s lack of communication skills, “I’m not a mind reader. I need a little direction once in a while.”
Organization is a key skill for anyone who works in the legal industry, but especially for attorneys. Near the end of my paralegal training, I asked one of my professors for advice about what to look for in a supervising attorney. He replied, “During the interview, if you can’t see the lawyer behind the huge pile of paper stacked in front of him on his desk, my advice would be to keep looking.”
Competent attorneys know that some form of structure is needed to run a successful practice. If you are a paralegal who is willing to help provide that framework, your services will be enormously valued.
Because the bulk of an attorney’s job revolves around multiple deadlines, time management is critical. Early in my paralegal career, I worked for a “serial procrastinator.” Although this attorney was dedicated and hard-working, he had one bad habit: waiting until the last possible minute to complete virtually every task, even things that could have been completed well in advance.
While his approach might have given him an adrenaline rush, it resulted in unnecessary overtime and more than a few frantic trips to UPS for costly Next Day Air service. Most paralegals want to work for an attorney who can prioritize, own her schedule, and delegate accordingly.
All attorneys must keep abreast of changes in the practice of law, including relevant technology or “maintaining competence,” according to the ABA. I once worked for an attorney who had no interest in technology.
He kept his appointments on a paper desk calendar, did his research at the law library, and wasn’t even sure how to turn his computer on.
He had me print out all his email messages out so he could write his responses on them (by hand), and open his email to type in his replies, repeating the process whenever he got another email. Not exactly a recipe for efficiency.
My advice: work for an attorney who embraces technology. Everyone will get a lot more done and a lot less time (and paper) will get wasted.
Ethical judgment is a cornerstone trait for lawyers, reflecting their commitment to upholding moral principles in the practice of law.
Lawyers must navigate intricate legal landscapes with integrity, ensuring their actions align with ethical standards. This trait guides decisions on client representation, case strategy, and adherence to legal and professional norms.
Ethical judgment instills trust in clients and the legal system, fostering a reputation for reliability and fairness. Lawyers with a strong ethical compass prioritize justice over personal gain, contributing to the credibility and accountability of the legal profession.
Ultimately, ethical judgment is not just a trait but a fundamental obligation that shapes lawyers’ roles as guardians of justice.
Cultural competence is a vital trait for lawyers, requiring an understanding and appreciation of diverse backgrounds, customs, and legal systems.
In a globalized legal landscape, lawyers must navigate cases involving various cultures, ensuring respect for differences and avoiding cultural biases. This trait enables effective communication with clients, colleagues, and opposing parties from diverse backgrounds.
Culturally competent lawyers recognize how cultural nuances impact legal perspectives, influencing case strategies and negotiations.
By embracing cultural competence, lawyers foster inclusive legal practices, enhance client trust, and contribute to a more equitable and harmonious legal environment.
Cultural competence is not just a trait; it’s a key element in promoting fairness and justice within the legal profession.
Consider, too, that implicit bias reduction strategies are key aspects of mandatory CLE accreditation in California. It’s important for today’s attorneys to embody this and ensure their practices are in keeping with these guidelines.
Adaptability is a crucial trait of lawyers that paralegals should look for.
As they navigate the dynamic and ever-evolving legal landscape, legal cases often present unforeseen challenges, requiring lawyers to adjust strategies swiftly.
Adaptable lawyers will stay abreast of changing laws, precedents, and emerging legal trends. They should demonstrate resilience in the face of unexpected developments, whether in negotiations, courtroom proceedings, or legal research, and this is something you should be looking to get an understanding of in terms of their experience when considering them.
The ability to pivot and reassess tactics ensures effective representation for clients. Adaptable lawyers embrace continuous learning, welcoming new information and technologies to enhance their legal practice.
In a profession shaped by constant change, adaptability is a cornerstone for success and innovation.
Unfortunately, no one, whether they possess these particular lawyer traits or not, is going to be perfect 100% of the time since most law firms and legal departments are known for being busy, high-pressure environments where tempers often flare.
As a former paralegal with over a decade of experience, I’ve gleaned valuable insights into the crucial traits attorneys should possess for a successful partnership with paralegals.
From my observations, a seasoned attorney brings not only experience but also the ability to provide supervision, effective communication, organizational prowess, and adept time management.
Embracing technology and maintaining ethical judgment is imperative for efficient legal practice, along with cultural competence in our globalized legal landscape.
The capstone of these traits is adaptability, which is vital for navigating the dynamic legal terrain. While perfection is unattainable, these traits serve as a guide for paralegals seeking a fruitful collaboration with attorneys in the demanding legal profession.
If the working relationship falters despite efforts, recognizing when it’s time to move on becomes a crucial aspect of professional growth.
As a paralegal, you will need to learn how to work effectively with your boss and earn their respect. However, if the relationship doesn’t work, no matter how hard you try, it might be time to move on.
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