Paralegals: How to Cope With a Micro-Managing Boss

I belong to several Facebook paralegal groups that I keep up with on an almost daily basis.  Hearing the stories other paralegals are telling about their jobs and daily work is always interesting and enlightening.  Today a paralegal had a good one and it had to do with an attorney boss that was obviously micro-managing his employees to the point of madness.

micro-manager boss

Being micro-managed is frustrating and discouraging. Your progress is often blocked by your boss's need to review and approve everything, and since you never have the chance to suggest improvements or demonstrate your own ability with a micro-manager you have no opportunity to really shine. In this instance, the paralegal came to the group asking for advice on how to handle a recent situation.  She had made the "terrible mistake" of making a single typo in an email that was sent to the defense counsel.  Now her boss insists on reviewing every one of her emails before she sends them.

That seems a bit extreme given it was one typo and this paralegal claimed a near spotless mistake-free work history.  In addition, she was carrying an intense caseload (something a lot of us can relate to).  Her complaint was that in addition to this instance, her boss was also micro-managing multiple other tasks she performs including the very mundane task of filing.  She was nervous all the time, was becoming filled with self doubt, and her work pace was being throttled.

The micro-managers scrutiny and attention to detail will take time away from your job, putting you in a no-win situation. You may also feel confused by contradictory messages and information you receive from your boss, which reflects his/her shifting (and sometimes mutually exclusive) priorities and goals.

The good news is that you, as paralegals, can reduce the stress and strain of working for a micromanager attorney-boss. However, you can help only yourself because you won't be able to rehabilitate your micromanaging boss.

The first thing you can do is replace your boss with your own positive inner coach boss. Talk to yourself and treat yourself the way you want to be managed. Encourage, empower, appreciate and value yourself and your ideas. Secondly, be prepared, be thorough with each task, be able to back up your work with proof, and keep a smile on your face.

  • Prepare in advance for scheduled calls/visits with your boss and certainly be ready for surprise calls and visits. Always have an update on the tip of your tongue. If the boss is nearby, expect a visit and have a detailed response ready.
  • Learn your boss's pattern and anticipate it. He/she will call you less if you always have the info ready and may learn to trust you. 
  • Get detailed project instructions from your boss in order to avoid future errors. 
  • Pay attention when your boss shows you his/her priorities and concerns, then play to those aspects to your advantage.
  • When presenting options, provide two equally acceptable alternatives so that your boss feels as though they have control when choosing one.
  • If he/she calls unexpectedly and you are dealing with a time-sensitive problem, ask if you can get back to them. Let them know you must prioritize it. 
  • If the boss won't listen to your perspective, enlist the aid of statistics, representatives or other authority figures whom the boss respects to win your point.
  • When dealing with a sticky issue, speak to the micro-managers strengths and comfort levels, using clients, favored people, articles, news reports and competitors' information rather than your opinion against theirs.
  • Keep up with company politics and stay on good terms with as many people as possible. You'll need allies, support systems, and a solid reputation as you continue to work out issues witht he micro-manager. 
  • Alert, warn, and inform your boss about important information to show you have his/her back on potential issues. Reinforce that you are on his/her side.
  • Use the boss's own beliefs, preferences, and concerns when presenting suggestions.
  • Keep an email trail of the communication between you and your boss.
  • Avoid direct confrontation.

Instead of fearing the micro-manger boss and keeping your head down and hoping for the best, empower yourself and do things you know are good at and that produce good results that your micro-managing boss can appreciate.  Remember, you are a valuable asset and know your job.  Don't let the micro-manager throw you off.

Why Lexis’ Sales Approach Should Concern Law Firm Management and Leadership


Over the weekend, I had a nice conversation with some of my peers in other law firm departments (Marketing, IT, and other administration leaders), about the American Association of Law Libraries’ (AALL) letter to Lexis, asking that Lexis cease their current sales requirement of tying Lexis Advance to non-related materials, including Law360, Lex Machina, print material, and other products. I think my colleague, Jean O’Grady did a great job covering this topic in her blog post, so I won’t re-hash the specifics of the letter. However, it is definitely an issue which those outside the law firm libraries should take notice, and be very concerned. This is something that affects the entire law firm, not just the law librarians.

....READ MORE  at 3 Geeks and a Law BlogWhy Lexis’ Sales Approach Should Concern Law Firm Management and Leadership

Paralegals: 7 Steps to Career Happiness

It’s time to do some soul searching. Do you see the glass as half empty? Are the majority of your posts on Facebook negative? Do you hold a grudge forever when you think you’ve been wronged? Are bad things always going to happen to you?
If you answered "Yes" to those questions, you're probably not a happy paralegal.  Do you want to be happy? Absolutely! But how? 

A person can’t just decide to be happy. So how are happy paralegals different from their miserable, pessimistic counterparts? They take actions that add up to a happy, well-lived life. 

These seven actions make the difference: 
  1. Happy paralegals laugh often. Laughter generates positive emotions and sets the mood for your day. So lighten up, relax, and laugh to enhance your mood, as well as that of the people you associate with.
  2.  Happy paralegals F-O-C-U-S! Stop doing so many things at once. Happy paralegals can focus (not just on work, but on their family and friends) for extended amounts of time. When you multitask, your brain leaps from one unconnected thought to another, piling stress on your shoulders.
  3. Log off Pinterest and quit posting cute pet videos on Facebook. Happy paralegals understand that not everything is important. Chinese philosopher Lin Yutang said, “Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is a nobler art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.”
  4. Happy paralegals don’t obsess over the small stuff. Happy paralegals take a take a long view of life and don’t obsess over every short term setback or problem. Are you having a bad day? Tomorrow will be better. You didn╩╝t win that election? Nobody will remember this time next year – and you may even get another chance. You didn’t pass the certification exam? Just try again. No one needs to know how many times you tried...passing is the big news.
  5. Happy paralegals engage in meaningful activities. Physical activity will reduce stress and boost your mood. There are many other “meaningful activities” that will also help with happiness. Time spent practicing yoga or meditation may work for you. For others, religious activities will be important. Reading, writing, quilting, knitting, scrapbooking, volunteering, etc. will give you a sense of calm.
  6. Happy paralegals develop positive relationships. Companionship and love create a sense of belonging that will enhance your life. When you have compassion for the people in your life and know you are cared for in return, you will be happy. Be sure you share quality time with others and nurture your friendships – reconnect with that friend you haven’t seen in years; plan a movie night; invite friends for dinner.
  7. Happy paralegals manage their expectations. Do you remember being terribly excited about an event (say a New Year’s Eve party) and, once it was over, you were disappointed because it didn’t live up to your expectations? Managing expectations is about eliminating the gap between what you expect and what actually happens. Focus on simply enjoying the moment.

    Managing expectations isn’t easy but when you are realistic about what will probably happen, you will save time, energy and disappointment should your expectations not be met. Consider your expectations and determine what areas of your life are frustrating. Perhaps you should manage your expectations for those areas.
While you can’t decide to be happy, you can decide to engage in actions that will bring you happiness. Do your soul searching. Consider this list and decide what is missing in your life. Then choose to take steps to fill that gap. To quote Mahatma Gandhi, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”

Vicki Voisin, "The Paralegal Mentor", delivers simple strategies for paralegals and other professionals to create success and satisfaction by setting goals and determining the direction they will take their careers. Vicki spotlights resources, organizational tips, ethics issues, and other areas of continuing education to help paralegals and others reach their full potential. She is the co-author of The Professional Paralegal: A Guide to Finding a Job and Career Success. Vicki publishes Paralegal Strategies, a weekly e-newsletter for paralegals, and hosts The Paralegal Voice, a monthly podcast produced by Legal Talk Network.
More information is available at where subscribers receive Vicki's 151 Tips for Your Career Success.
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