It’s not just legal professionals, every industry and every office has certain less than stellar work habits. Add them all up and some harmless seeming habits can actually have a fairly large negative impact on your wellbeing, both personally and professionally.
Here are some things legal professionals—and everyone else, too–should avoid doing, for their own good, as well as for the benefit of colleagues and clients.
1. Oversharing on social media
Many people are guilty of oversharing on social media:
“Check out my awesome lunch!”
“Look at these before and after photos of me cleaning my house!”
But when a legal professional posts too much information on a social media site, they could be jeopardizing their client’s case as well as their own career. Sharing the details of a case, complaining about a judge, or bragging about a new client – these could all constitute ethical violations, something that no law firm wants.
2. Cutting deadlines too close
According to the American Bar Association, malpractice trap #1 is missing deadlines. While mistakes can happen, many legal professionals are guilty of procrastination. Putting things off to the last minute may lead to a missed deadline, which could cause a case to be dismissed or lost, which in turn could result in a malpractice claim. An office-wide calendaring system with the capacity for cross-checking and frequent reminders should be used by all, no exceptions.
3. Serving papers via email
Email can be a very useful tool for all sorts of communication—but not for serving legal papers. It’s not reliable enough, as documents could easily get sent into a junk or spam folder. It’s not traceable since you can’t tell when the email was read or the documents were viewed. And serving multiple people via email could be a privacy nightmare, if certain contact details are shared inadvertently. Improper service could spell disaster for a case, so eServe through a secure, accessible portal where you can stay in control and on top of the information.
4. Glamorizing ‘busy’
Ask someone how they’ve been and the answer is likely to be: “Busy!” Your response? Probably also “Busy!” Everyone seems to be busy today, but there’s no award for working the most hours every week, handling the largest caseload, or making the most money. Busy is not the same as productive, and even though many pride themselves on being able to multitask, people can realistically only focus on one task at a time. Being overly busy has become a bragging right for many people, but it actually takes a great toll on our lives, ultimately resulting in more stress, depression, and eventually burnout. Do yourself a favor and think of how you’d like to define your status, then aim for that. “Productive!” You might say. Or “Happy,” “Excited about X,” Enjoying Y.” Try it out.
Speaking of which…
5. Asking ‘how are you?’ on autopilot
“How are you?” has become an overused greeting in our society, just as “busy” is often the automatic answer. If you’ve found yourself routinely using this greeting on everyone you meet, try to reserve it for when you really want the answer. Need a few alternate greetings? Try “Happy Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday/etc.,” “It’s nice to see you,” “Well hello there, long time no see.”
You can show genuine interest by asking something more personalized. “How was your vacation to ____?” “Did you end up going to that concert you mentioned?”
When you really want to know how someone is, try changing up the wording so that they know you are truly interested, rather than automatically asking. Perhaps, “I’ve been thinking about you, how have you been?”
6. Putting off clients
Legal clients can be extremely needy, sometimes calling multiple times a day to check on the status of their case. While this can be very annoying for the legal professionals handling their lawsuit, a client’s calls should never be ignored. They’ll just call more often, becoming increasingly irritated each time. Lawyers have a duty to communicate with a client, and the failure to do so can result in a legal malpractice claim.
Additionally, there are certain instances when communications with a client should not only be responded to, but rather initiated, such as when there has been a development in a case, a major decision needs to be made, or legal representation is somehow impacted. Always err on the side of more communication, rather than less.
7. Feeling miserable at work (and verbalizing it)
It turns out that the act of complaining itself can make you feel more miserable. Focusing on the negative makes things seem worse than they are, and creates a “why bother” mentality that doesn’t help anyone. Complaining can also quickly become a hard-to-break habit. People with a more positive outlook, on the other hand, end up being more successful at work, and if you express your need for change and growth in a more positive way, there’s a much better chance that your employer will work to support your goals.
What other pitfalls have you found that you think legal professionals should stop doing? Tell us about them in the comments!