The Recovering Paralegal will now take this opportunity to say everything I wished I could say to all those bright-eyed newbie lawyers who came into the office every summer and just wreaked complete havoc.
For starters, if this is your very first job, keep it to yourself. A great majority of us have been working in some form or another since our early teen years. Some of us worked out of necessity, some of us because we desired our independence, and some of us did so because our parents wanted us to develop as fully functional well-rounded individuals in society. Personally, if you are in your mid-twenties and have never held a job before, something is wrong with you.
Law is a service profession. You will serve clients and you will serve your superiors in the firm. You need to wrap your head around this.
If you are going to work with a good group of people, they will probably have some sort of office training or orientation for you on your first day. If you are going to work in a small firm, and it becomes clear to you that there is no structured orientation hour, seek out your paralegal and make friends.
Paralegals want to help you and make your life easier. Nobody wants A. Big Shot Attorney getting irritated over stuff and throwing chairs while complaining about how stupid his dumb new associate is.
Here are some things you need to do to function in your new home:
- You need to learn the names of all your support team members and who you ask for what.
- You need to learn how the filing system works – both electronically and hard copy files.
- If your office is living in the dark ages with an old coffee pot, you need to figure out how to make the coffee. Don’t be that guy who drains the last cup and doesn’t make more, either. Nobody will like you if you do that.
- Learn how the phone system works, how to use the copier and the scanner, and how to send certified mail and Fed-ex packages. Nobody is expecting you to actually do these tasks under normal circumstances, but you may find yourself alone one day and will be glad that you know how to help yourself.
- Talk to your paralegal about deadline tasks in advance so you can plan ahead and have enough time for copying exhibits and scheduling couriers for filings.
Also, learn how to count backwards from deadline dates. What I mean by this is, if you have a response to a motion due in thirty days, count back and set tasks for yourself to get a draft to your boss at least two weeks before it is due. After awhile, this deadline will become one week before it is due, and then once you get really sharp, you can push things a little later. But trust me, nothing can make A Big Shot Attorney throw a chair like his associate handing him a brief to read the day before it is due.