How paralegals can command more respect

How Paralegals Can Command More Respect
Want to command more professional respect as a paralegal? These tips will help you cultivate more respect from others in the legal industry.

Let’s be clear from the outset. The title of this blog is in no way intended to suggest that paralegals like you don’t have the respect of your profession.

To the contrary, you already have a great deal of respect. After all, you’re a critical member of your team.

This article is a guide to help you get more respect from all angles — including from yourself if you need a confidence boost.

We want to talk about those important, intangible things you can do to raise your value even further within your firm. Cultivating this kind of respect is great for your career growth and your mental health.

Some of the things we suggest here will be simple to adopt.

Others will take time and effort.

Nonetheless, these are all tips that are sure to earn you kudos from your colleagues, bosses, and other industry professionals.

Show more respect

This may seem like a simple tip, but it’s amazing how many people overlook it. Before you can gain the respect of your clients and peers, you need to show them ample respect.

There are many ways you can do this.

Start with being kind to the people around you. Believe it or not, many people don’t have much kindness in their lives (especially those who come off as rude or dismissive). That makes the kindness they receive from you all the more important.

You can also do subtle things like actively listen when people speak to you. If you have a tendency to interrupt, break that bad habit right away.

Be honest and authentic in your communications. Sometimes, your attempt to avoid hurting someone’s feelings can come across as disrespectful because they feel like you don’t trust them to handle their own emotions when hearing tough news.

Be polite and courteous as a rule rather than as an exception. Even when someone is being short or rude to you, respond with your usual courtesy.

All of these things, when done on a consistent basis, will prove to your coworkers that you respect them and are likewise worthy of respect.

What about respect for yourself? If you make self-deprecating jokes, put yourself down, or act like you’re not worthy of the same respect you show to others, it’s harder for people to give you respect in return. Watch out for behaviors and comments that signal disrespect for yourself.

Be the go-to on something difficult

I don’t care which law firm you work for or how routine your practice is, there are undoubtedly parts of your job that are harder than others.

In many cases, those are the precise things that your colleagues want to avoid doing.

Mastering these difficult tasks will earn you additional respect at work.

If people know you’re willing to dig in and get your hands dirty when no one else will, you’ll be at the top of the list when it’s time for things like promotions or bonuses. Plus, most of these tough jobs aren’t so difficult once you do them once or twice and figure out how they work.

Often, the “difficult” jobs at your firm aren’t really that hard — they’re just tedious or boring. When you tackle these chores, you prove your professionalism and win the gratitude of your peers.

Increase your emotional intelligence

We’ve all worked with people who absolutely, positively, lack emotional intelligence.

You know who they are.

They’re the people who seem to have extreme reactions to almost any situation.

If an event calls for happiness, they’re almost too happy. If the situation is stressful, they are obviously and painfully the most stressed. And, when they get angry, watch out.

Think back on some of the people you’ve worked with who fit this description. What kind of feeling do you have about their professionalism? Odds are good that you don’t immediately recall a strong sense of professional respect.

Experts say these people lack emotional regulation skills that are critical to success.

In order to avoid being perceived as emotionally unintelligent, you need to remain steady. You should have an awareness of your own emotions and an ability to read the emotional cues of the people around you through hints like body language.

Most importantly, when you have high emotional intelligence, you’re able to remain calm and professional through it all.

This is easier said than done, but gaining emotional intelligence is possible for anyone. Books like Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace: How to Use EQ to Build Strong Relationships and Thrive in Your Career will help you get there. This is one investment that will serve you for the rest of your working days.

Lift others up

We all know that people who choose the law as a profession tend to be highly competitive. Unfortunately, that often translates into colleagues competing against each other rather than acting as a team to achieve great results for their clients.

Worse yet, all that competition can leave some people feeling “less than” and depressed in the workplace.

If you’d like to see the overall attitude change within your law firm, be the person who lifts others up.

Congratulate a colleague on a well-written motion, celebrate a work anniversary, or compliment a client on getting through a contentious deposition. Even something as simple as maintaining a positive attitude in a stressful situation can be encouraging to those around you.

The truth is, when you do simple things to lift the people around you, you’re also doing yourself a favor by making yourself more attractive to others.

Be careful, however.

Fake compliments and empty flattery are easily spotted and will do more harm to your reputation than good. As you practice lifting up the people around you, be sure you only do so when you feel truly moved by their awesomeness.

Mind your own business

There are few things more deleterious to a positive work environment than gossip.

Gossip can hurt feelings, ruin trust, destroy morale, and, in some cases, obliterate friendships and close working relationships. Even if you don’t experience such dire consequences, participating in office gossip will make you less respectable.


What other people do with their lives is not your business.

The business decisions that your firm may or may not make in coming weeks won’t be influenced by you whispering about them.

The person who is already struggling will only struggle more when they find you’re talking behind their back.

So, when you’re tempted to gossip about these things, just don’t do it.

Of course, when it comes to gossip in the workplace, the easy part is to refrain from spreading gossip yourself. The harder part is to respectfully cut others off when they try to bring their gossip to your ears.

When you have the temerity to do so, however, you set an example that will not only gain you respect, it might make your law firm a nicer place to work overall.

Be reliable

Perhaps the greatest tip we can give you for gaining respect at work is to do all the things you should be doing anyway.

Work hard.

Be on time every day.

Strive to be good at your craft.

Be honest and authentic.

Don’t make excuses.

Don’t be overly critical.

Don’t bully people.

While we all set out to be that ultra-reliable employee, some of us falter over time. It’s understandable — fatigue sets in, other life priorities get in the way, and sometimes we reach a place where we’re just trying to get through the work day.

Do yourself a favor and take inventory of your reliability every quarter or so. If you need to make adjustments, do so before you’ve dug yourself too deep.

Gaining more respect as a paralegal isn’t always easy, but it can be done. As you’re working on it, remember these sage words from Gloria Steinham: “Once we give up searching for approval, we often find it easier to earn respect.”

Being respected isn’t about getting people to like you. More often than not, it is just a matter of doing what you know to be right. Stick with that simple rule, and you’ll never lack for respect.

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