Legal Law Office Issues: Tips For Success

Legal law office issues: Before taking the plunge into a law career, read these tips especially for lawyers, paralegals, and legal secretaries

Working in a law office can be exciting and fun. The work is challenging, and each day brings the possibility of some new excitement walking through the front door.

Law offices offer a variety of work opportunities, from being a licensed attorney, a paralegal, a receptionist, an administrative assistant, a file clerk, or a researcher. The most education intensive job, of course, is that of attorney, with a paralegal coming in second. Other jobs in the legal field come with various requirements set out by individual law firms. Though each job may require different qualifications and job duties, each job operates in close connection with all others.

Though working in a law firm may sound glamorous, and it may, in fact, be exciting at different turns and twists, a law office offers its own set of rules, and is a life in and of itself.

Before you take the plunge and start sending out resumes or applying to law school, there are some law office specifics you might want to consider first.

(1) Be honest! This should be a given, no matter what job you take. But it seems especially true in the legal world. The old saying, "Never lie to your attorney," is certainly true, whether the lawyer happens to represent you or signs your paycheck.

(2) Know what confidentiality means, and abide by it to the letter. A client's right to confidentiality is only as good as the law firm staff. Clients depend on lawyers, sometimes for their very lives. And if the lawyer can't keep a client's confidences, a potentially damaging case could be lost because of something that was said.

(3) Law offices require a different mindset. It takes a special kind of person to successfully manage life in a law office. There is a society and culture among members of the legal community. And it helps to know this going in.

(4) Stay on top of things. Clutter and disorganization can kill you. There are many deadlines and time sensitive things going on in a law firm. One missed deadline can ruin a case and destroy an attorney's career, possibly even ruin someone's life - the client's. Paperwork is a creature in its own right, often duplicating overnight, or so it seems. There will always be a need to locate bits and pieces of paperwork for any one file at any given time. So, keeping everything neat and organized is an absolute necessity.

(5) There will often be more work than any one person can handle, and many times not enough financing to hire more help. There will always be a ton of things that need to be done in a law office, and all members of the firm will be expected to carry their share of the load. When case loads increase, or activity in different cases heightens, more work will be generated. And, at times, the load may feel unbearable. But, for the legal world, work will usually fluctuate. Just as work will often increase, work will also usually decrease from time to time. Attorneys must learn to juggle and shuffle finances during the lean times. And this may account for keeping a staff on hand who can handle the load of cases somewhere in the middle range of activity. Thus, staff must also dig in and struggle through the peaks, knowing that a slack time may very well be forthcoming.

(6) Fight the urge to get personally involved in the lives of clients. Stories may be compelling, and many will actually be true. But, though all attorneys would love to represent only the innocent and honest, it just doesn't work that way. And some clients will spin a tale even the most skeptical would dare to refute. However, even when stories are true, and the details break your heart, beware the tendency to get too close. Clients are simply that - clients - not little lost puppies to take home. This is not to say you must have a complete hands-off policy. You can always refer clients in need to community resources. Just be careful, lest the clients become too dependent on you.

(7) Learn how to leave work at the office. Attorneys many times take case files home to work on them. However, if you have a family or any other kind of life outside the office, working at home too often can seriously damage those relationships.

(8) Have a life outside the office. By all means, have friends, family and activities away from the office, if for no other reason than to hang on to some sense of sanity. Everyone needs to have a real life outside of work. Being so immersed in any job can quickly lead to a major burnout. And burnout can lead to any number of other problems - health problems, low job performance, depression, etc.

(9) Be careful of office romances. With the legal community very much its own social circle, it's easy to fall for someone you spend time with in and out of the office. But romances can interfere with job performance and work environments. And what happens if or when a romance turns bad? Everyone in the office suffers.

(10) Last and certainly not least, if this is what you really want to do - then do it! Scope out the situation, any specific job requirements and your home life. If you think you can successfully juggle it all, keep your sanity, and enjoy yourself through thick and thin, then go for it. There are rewards and benefits of working within the legal field. Just be sure you thoughtfully consider the situation from all angles, before you take the plunge.

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