Be a Better Paralegal 10 Day Challenge-Day 1-How to Handle a Bad Work Assignment

As part of my 10 Day Be a Better Paralegal Challenge, I am posting several ways yu can improve your career and daily work routines, which in turn make you a more productive and professional paralegal!  Jump in on the challenge and see how you can improve your career. Be sure to follow the blog to get all 10 challenges! This month I'll talk about a tough one for paralegals and legal assistants...the poor work assignment.  


One of the problems paralegals often face is when you are given a bad work assignment. Trust me, you will know when it happens.  You are handed at an assignment, go back to your office, and for whatever reason, you are baffled as to how you are supposed to get it done. There are a lot of reasons an assignment is bad.  For example:
  • You are given a assignment that is beyond your capabilities or one that legally and ethically you should not be doing.    
  • You are given an assignment with a vague description and deadline. 
  • You are given a detailed and complicated assignment with no assistance or enough time to complete it. 
  •  You are given competing assignments from two different attorneys who want you to prioritize their needed work. 
  • You are given a last minute project you know won't be completed on time.  
  •  You are given a project to complete but not given access to the proper resources to get it done.  
I personally have been given an assignment I knew I could not complete by the deadline. This assignment required the use of outside vendors and access to certain databases that I simply did not have or was allowed by the firm to utilize.  In my case, the attorneys who gave me the assignment assumed that the firm gave us that access, but they did not.  After an honest conversation with the attorneys (and trying hard not to make them look stupid) I was granted access.  It was a simple case of the attorneys not realizing that the firm does not pay for certain research and legal websites that required a subscription.  They also did not realize how large the scope of the project actually was and why we needed the outside vendors to complete the work.  Our law firm did not have the ability to put 50,000 pages of records on a back up hard drive and they understood that once it was discussed.  

And that is the best advice I can give for fixing a bad assignment.  Remember, poor work reflects on you and no one else.  If the assignment is poor, write out your questions and problems, go to the attorney as quickly as possible and discuss the issues.  Ask more questions to get relevant information so that you turn in an assignment on time and done correctly.  

If there is no way an assignment can be done on time, you must tell the attorney right away so that an alternative plan can be hashed out.  Be sure your reasons for not making the deadline are legitimate.  Be prepared with alternatives or a way to make the deadline perhaps by asking for an assistant on the project. 

Again, my best advice is honest, open communication with the attorney, done in a timely manner so as to avoid missing the deadline entirely, leaving only you to blame.  


Quick tips:


  1. Clarify the assignment. This should calm your reservations and may even solve your problems in one step. There’s nothing worse than spending a second longer on a task that you’re dreading because you were unclear about it.
  2. Be positive or at least appear to be. Don’t give into the temptation to vent if you can. You don’t have to be happy about the assignment, but you should keep it to yourself. If you must vent, find a confidant – loved one, friend, or anyone else you trust – who will give you a sounding board and will cut you off before you say something you shouldn’t.
  3. Work efficiently and don’t procrastinate. It’s better to face a problem and get past it rather than let it linger. Never let bad assignments stress you.
  4. When it’s done, let it go. People sometimes let the bad stories cling to them, and it poisons their future work. Take a deep breath, and move on the next, hopefully better, challenge. 

1 comment:

Albert Barkley said...

You post will be a good guideline resource for me to accept challenges that come in way of my MBA assignment. Thanks for sharing.

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