Evaluating Paralegal Performance

After traveling for a week and relaxing for another here at our cottage in Maine, I’m catching up a bit on my internet browsing. This morning I found a reference to The Empowered Paralegal in a web article entitled “The Strengths of a Paralegal” and followed a link to “What is a Performance Contract for Paralegals.”* The latter article correctly notes that most of the time there is no specific “performance contract” written and signed by the paralegal and the employer. Rather there are a set of documents including a basic employment contract (although often even this is just an oral agreement,) a job description (although there is often nothing in writing in this regard either and often this leads to confusion, misunderstanding, and frustration on the part of both the paralegal and employer – In The Empowered Paralegal: Effective, Efficient, and Professional I recommend creating a specific job description for the job you are actually doing for several reasons,” and some sort of “annual review evaluation form.”

The article gives a brief list and discussion of some of the strengths that are normally included on the evaluation form. It also included the statement, “Though few employees relish having their work scrutinized, a performance contract based on objective criteria can actually encourage paralegals to assess their own strengths so they can grow professionally.” This is also quite true and a point made here several times. Professional, empowered paralegals should look forward to annual evaluations. Indeed, in The Empowered Paralegal” I “join Vicki Voison, The Paralegal Mentor in recommending requesting more frequent reviews – quarterly or even monthly. Rather than having the attorney/manager evaluating you on a year’s performance with you having no idea what they are thinking or looking for, ask for a copy of the evaluation form and prepare for it.

As I’ve stated previously, I suggest that paralegals request (at least) a quarterly review and, to a great degree, that they take control of the review process. As I point out in The Empowered Paralegal: Effective, Efficient, and Professional, “Empowerment does not come from the outside. It comes from within. It is not granted, it is earned. The empowered paralegal gains that power and the confidence that comes with being professional, and by being a competent, effective and efficient member of the legal team.” Part of that process is going into a review already aware of your own value to the legal team.

Start by recording successes. This has several advantages. It provides a resource for review in preparation for evaluations and it can be useful in re-establishing self-esteem and self-confidence at the end of those (we hope infrequent) bad days. It is good to keep a notebook with copies of CLE certificates, thank-yous or compliments from clients and attorneys, certifications, volunteer activities, professional association activities, and every other honor or recognition you receive during the year (including times when you have patted yourself on the back for a job well done.) Include the plans you have implemented to deal with the “constructive suggestions for improvement” from the last evaluation and records showing the improvement has occurred.

Bring that notebook with you to all your evaluations. Even if you never open it, it will help empower you during the evaluation.

*Other than the mention of this blog on the first page, I have not connection with this site. The reference to it here is not an endorsement of the site or any of its advertisers.

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