Working Professionallywith Administrative Agencies

My administrative law class recently had an assignment requiring that they interview a supervisor from a local, state, or federal administrative agency. Many found it difficult to do because they did not get timely responses to their calls. Some, apparently, simply waited for a call, never doing follow-up. This lead to some discussion on the class discussion board.

There is no doubt it can be difficult getting return calls and appointments with administrative agency personnel. That is one of the points of going through this particular assignment. It is frequently the job of a paralegal to get information from an agency under a fairly tight schedule.

Let’s assume the president of a major client company is coming in for a conference in a week. She  expects a clear, up-to-date report on the status of her company’s dealings with an agency – dealings which your office has been handling. The attorney assigns you the job of getting the necessary information from the agency. You have just one week to get that information and an explanation from someone knowledgeable at the agency. Reporting back to the client that you left a message and there was no return call will likely lose the office the company’s business!

Several of students noted getting what you need in these situations requires a combination of patience, persistence, respect, and other skills. In fact it requires a balance of those skills. Too much patience and you’ll never get a call back as they will spend their time dealing with more persistent people. Two much persistence, especially if it is rude, disrespectful, or otherwise unprofessional will result in a complete lack of cooperation. As many of you noted, you get only one shot at the person, so it is essential to (1) know what you need to know, (2) know who to ask for it, and (3) know how to ask for it. Otherwise, you may find yourself unable to complete the job assigned to you by the attorney.

So the question is, “What is the professional balance of persistence and patience, respect and insistence, when dealing administrative agencies, clerks and the like?” I, and my students, would like to hear from you. How do you handle these situations?

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