Communication and the Attorney-Paralegal Relationship

The keys to an effective, sustainable attorney/paralegal relationship include respect for each others role on the legal team and communication about and within those roles. You can greatly improve the respect you receive from your attorney through professional conduct and high quality work (as opposed to just satisfactory work.)

In previous posts I’ve discussed, however, the confusion that may exist over the role of the paralegal. That confusion results not only in a less effective legal team, but in frustration and unhappiness on the part of both the attorney and paralegal.

You can help reduce the confusion by being aware of the potential for it, being clear in your own mind about what you can and cannot do, and being willing to talk to your attorney about it in an open, honest and non-confrontational way. This is especially true in obtaining the instructions you need to do your job correctly.

No one benefits from you spending four hours completing a research project only to find out you did not understand what the attorney was asking. Nor is it beneficial to spend four hours completing a project you do understand if a few clarifying questions would have made it a one hour project.  On the other hand, receiving highly detailed instructions or only unchallenging tasks that require little or no instruction wastes the attorney’s time, under utilizes you as a paralegal which wastes the attorney’s money and your competence, and leads to frustration on your part, if not his.

However, it is not likely that he did this intentionally. More likely, he was simply unaware that more was needed, either because that is his management style, he made faulty assumptions or he has an insufficient understanding of what you in particular or paralegals in general can do. He cannot read your mind, and you cannot read his.

So you can see that obtaining proper instructions means instructing the attorney.  We come back again to basic communication. In subsequent posts, I’ll discuss some measures you can take to prevent and resolve these difficulties.

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