3 Common Paralegal Job Mistakes and How to Do Damage Control

I have made a few of these mistakes myself.  It's not the mistake, it is how you handle the mistake that gets noticed.  

1.  Relying on your memory -  You may have a terrific memory but how is your recall? Writing things down helps you focus, regardless of your learning style. Making a list or writing notes helps reinforce your memory and your recall. Always have a pad to write on. Use flash cards when you’re memorizing. Highlighting is not the same as writing it down. If you simply highlight, you will ll be able to find the material, but you may not remember it.

2.  Assuming you don’t “need” to belong to a professional association  - Actually, you’re correct – you don’t “need” to belong to a professional association….unless you don’t think you need to network with other paralegals, keep up to date with the latest trends and systems, and know first-hand about changes in the law. The time you invest in a professional association (on the local, state and national level) will bring you immeasurable returns.

3.  Missing a deadline - Deadlines are very important in the law and there are a few that come with almost every case. A common mistake made by new paralegals is to assume that if a deadline is approaching, the attorney will tell you about it. Many times, however, the attorney expects you to tell them about deadlines, or better yet, just take care it. Some paralegals put deadlines on the attorney’s calendar and others use their own calendar for deadlines, but however you choose to do it, one of the first things you should do when you start a paralegal job is come up with a system that works for you.

When you make a mistake you should give yourself a few minutes to feel sorry for yourself and beat yourself up if that’s what you want to do.  However, you should not dwell on it and after a short time you MUST spring into action.

1. Figure out why  – Why did this mistake happen?  Was it because you are understaffed? Sometimes when we get really busy and there are a lot of deadlines on our plates we tend to rush through our everyday work and mistakes usually happen.  If you notice, most mistakes happen in the simplest tasks; making copies, counting days for a response, missing a deadline on discovery etc. Make sure you understand why you made the mistake.

2. Make a plan – come up with a plan to solve the mistake or at least correct it. Sometimes we get so caught up in the mistake and how badly we feel that we forget that the mistake still needs to be remedied. Don’t dwell on what’s been done. Think about going forward, and do whatever is needed to repair the damage. 

3. Going forward – come up with a few ideas to implement that will ensure the mistake won’t happen again. Could you get another paralegal or secretary to look at your documents to make sure that all the copies are there and the Bate Stamp numbers are in order?  Could you implement some check points to make sure the deadlines are not missed?  Maybe recording the dates on two different calendars, one that you carry with you at all times.  I use my smart phone and have a calendar dedicated to “work.”  Could you set your email to send you reminders?

4. Report your mistake – this one, I have to admit, is the most difficult one. I don’t like letting people down and I really like my attorneys so when I make a mistake I feel I let them down. Of course this is not the right thinking, I am, after all human, and am bound to make mistakes. However, letting them know you made a mistake is the most important step.


Angie Laird said...

I would like to reprint this article of great tips in my local paralegal association newsletter. Do i have your permission? We are a small organization (approx. 35 + members) and the newsletter is emailed only to our members. Hope to hear from you soon.

Jenny Tucker said...

Absolutely! What is the organization? Feel free to email me at paralegalplace@gmail.com if you need anything else!

Angie Laird said...

Thank you Jenny! We are the Southeast Texas Association of Paralegals (www.setap.org) in Beaumont, Texas. Thanks again! I will send you a cooy of our newsletter once its published.

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