Dealing with Others in Your Professional Life

AuthorStewart I. Edelstein
ProfessionCommercial trial lawyer
You play the starring role in the movie that is your ca reer as a trial law-
yer, supported by a cast of characters ranging from your secretar y to
judges who rule in your cases. T his chapter explores how to deal with all
of them, except clients, who merit their own part (see Chapter 1).
This movie analog y does not suggest that you should be play-acting in
your role as a trial law yer. No. You must be yourself at all times, a lthough
you can develop different aspects of who you are as you make your way
professionally. Other movies are screening at the same time throughout
your life—movies of your l ife as friend, husband or wife, parent, son
or daughter, sibling, hobbyist, and amateur athlete, for example. If you
abandon all of those other roles, you will bu rn out. See Chapter 7(D)
about managing a balanced life while succeeding as a t rial lawyer.
So other than clients, who are all of these people in supporting
roles? They are your secretary, paralegals, witnesses (lay a nd expert),
colleagues in your firm (unless you are a sole practitioner), lawyers in
other firms w ith whom you work, opposing counsel, mediators, arbitra-
tors, jurors, and judges. Your relationship with each has unique benefits
and pitfalls.
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You and your secretary should be a dynam ic duo, like Batman and Robin
(but without the costu mes), achieving your clients’ goals eff iciently. Your
relationship should be one of mutual respect and cooperation. Even
though you are in a position of control vis-à-vis your secretary, you must
work as a team to get things done right and on t ime. Here are some tips:
•Establishafunctionalandefficientsystemforgett ingworkdone.
ciency and take your secretary’s worthy suggestions seriously.
•Ifyoursec retaryworksformorethanonelaw yer,establisha
mechanism to coordinate work f low. Do not wait for a crisis to deal
with this issue.
•Ifyoursec retaryiseveroverwhelmedbytoomuchworkthatmust
be done in too little time, have a mechanism in place for overflow
work to get done in a timely manner.
and-suspenders approach.
•Tosavetime,establishanelectron icformbankfordocuments
such as deposition notices, subpoenas, and boilerplate language for
settlement agreements.
•Beexplicitinallassignmentstoyoursecretarytoavoidmisu nder-
standings about what must be done and by when.
•W hengivinganassignment,brieflyex plainthepurposeandcon-
text so that your secretary will have a clear u nderstanding of the
task and the motivation to achieve it.
•Giveyoursecret arypositivereinforcementwhenataskisdone
well; don’t hesitate to express your appreciation for a job well done.
•W heneveryouwillbeoutofyouroffice,letyoursecretaryandthe
receptionist know where you will be a nd how to reach you.
•Rememberthatyoursecret aryisnotanautomatonpumpingout
work. Express a genuine interest in your secretary as a person.
•Ifamistakeismade(andmista keswillbemade),don’tblameyoursec-
retary if you can t ake the blame. For example, if a letter is sent out with
typog raphical errors, your secret ary is not at fault. Before signing that
letter, it was your responsibility, not your secretary ’s, to correct typos.
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