5 Tips for Getting the Best from Your Paralegals

Legal TeamworkIt’s no secret that young lawyers rarely get management training before setting off to work. So, I was delighted to receive this guest post from the experienced paralegals at ParalegalEdu, offering five useful tips on working with paralegals. (They’re broadly applicable to other support staff, as well.)

So, now you know!

You might feel good about having hired the best and brightest paralegals out there, but your real job as team leader and motivator doesn’t end there. As any litigator would attest, success is never a given, and a team of talented people does not, by itself, determine results.

It’s what you do with the talent and how that talent works as a cohesive unit that will determine your level of productivity, and ultimately, the level of success that you’ll achieve.

You’ve likely heard the terms team building, team dynamics and teamwork used ad nauseam (and with careless romanticism), but don’t give way to cynicism by letting yourself undervalue these powerful concepts. It’s the underpinnings of these concepts — collaboration, cohesiveness, communication and a common vision — that support a truly effective team experience.

Your talented team of paralegals is right in front of you, ready to be led and certainly ready to be motivated.

Here are five ways you can get the most from your paralegals:

1. Give Feedback Freely

You’ll find that you get the most from your paralegals when they recognize your awareness of their work. Make feedback specific and automatic. If feedback does not flow freely, even the best of paralegal teams can be doomed.

Effective feedback is much more than just a moral-booster or the validation of effort. Providing targeted feedback in a timely manner allows mistakes to be corrected early, while ensuring accomplishments are recognized, and then modeled after. Even the most secure and self-assured professionals thrive on feedback. It is what will hone a common vision, and encourage your paralegals to produce their best work.

2. Set Clear Expectations

Setting clear expectations not only helps create a common vision, but it also ensures clarity of vision. Before you can see teamwork really begin to take shape, you need to clearly communicate your expectations to the team. To do anything else succeeds only in creating a disillusioned group of paralegals scrambling to demonstrate their individual value, but with no clear purpose.

Once you have set your expectations, including your expectations of individual performance, your paralegal team will begin to demonstrate a constancy of purpose that will be reflected in their work.

3. Have Trust in Them

Once you have offered clarity to your team in terms of expectations, and the framework for achieving the desired goals is in place, you must then let go and trust them. Creating a successful team means nurturing motivation and fostering accountability. You can accomplish this by giving your paralegal team control over the decisions that have an immediate impact on their work and their success.

The work environment you create must be structured, but it shouldn’t be so rigid that team members don’t feel they have the freedom to let their talents shine. Bestow trust on your paralegals, and they will amaze you.

4. Value Their Individual Talents

Have you really tapped into the individual talents of your paralegals? You may work with paralegals that have experience in civil litigation, corporate law, or contract law, or they may have proficiency in the areas of administrative, municipal, commercial, or environment law. In any case, with experience comes expertise.

Few things energize and motivate a paralegal like being called upon for their specialized knowledge. Regardless of their area of specialization, you’ll be amazed at how drawing from the unique skills and talents of your paralegals will invigorate them and motivate them to be more productive than ever.

5. Encourage the Free Exchange of Ideas

A successful team is one in which all ideas are heard, so consider fostering an atmosphere where the exchange of thoughts and ideas is always encouraged. Just as you must provide feedback to your team, you should encourage them to give you feedback as well. Solicit their ideas and allow them to feel comfortable contributing their thoughts without fear of criticism or repercussions. More than virtually anything else, free and open communication can help you get the most out of your paralegals.

There’s no doubt that a team of self-motivated and personally-vested paralegals is a powerful force — and effectively managing this team can make all the difference in your productivity and the success of your practice.

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Very useful, thank you! Having a good working relationship with your paralegals is critical to success (and sanity).

Want more info? ParalegalEdu.org is an education center for aspiring paralegal and law professionals. Check out their website for all the details!

Read On:

Before you can worry about managing people, you need a job!

Get tips here: Job Hunting 101.

Do you have questions, or tips, about supervising a team? Leave them in the comments!

Image by nellart from stock.xchng.


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  1. I think it’s a great idea to communicate effectively with your team, that way they know exactly what you expect from them. Trusting your paralegal is also paramount as it enables them to work to the best of their abilities fulfilling what you asked of them. These are great tips for dealing with the team you’ve selected, I wonder if there are tips on actually choosing a paralegal for your needs as well. Thank you for the information!

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