Monday Young Lawyers Practice Tip- How to Treat Your Assistant

Two Monday practice tips on a Tuesday?  You betcha!  We may be late but you won’t get cheated, I promise you that!

In my previous post about calendaring, I alluded to training your assistant on what is important, which also gave me the idea to do this post on training your assistant or secretary.  Here are a few tips to maximize the attorney-assistant relationship:

1) Forget the Mad Men crap.  I’m not even talking about the sexual harassment part, which is too obvious to even bother with as a practice tip.  I’m talking about the mentality.  The superiority complex, the chauvinism (where applicable, as not all executives are men and not all assistants are women!), it’s a relic of the past and get it out of your head.  Treat your assistant as a professional, go fix your own damn cup of coffee, order your own flowers for your significant other, and don’t be afraid to grab your own stuff off the printer once in awhile.  Your assistant can help you in more important ways than that.

2) The “Come to Jesus” meeting.  I’m a big fan of having a meeting with my assistant on the first day of our new business relationship.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I have had five assistants, and each time I start a new relationship I like to sit down and explain what is expected of them, what is most important to me as an attorney, how I see their role fitting into my practice, etc.  I open the floor to questions as well.  The attorney-assistant relationship is very much a personal service one so it is important for your assistant to know what’s most important to you.

3) Treat them as a teammate, not a subordinate.  To get respect you usually must give respect.  My assistant handles a lot of vital parts of my practice.  While those parts do not require three years of law school training, without them I could not function, and I continually mention my appreciation for that fact.  You want an assistant who feels like they are part of the team, not a droid sitting at their desk waiting for instructions until 5 p.m. 

4) Lighten up, Francis.  The best line of the movie Stripes is dedicated to this bit of advice-  only lose your cool over effort-based mistakes as opposed to execution-based mistakes.  We all make mistakes, even you.  Lazy errors can’t should not be tolerated.  The rest should call only for constructive counseling. 

Explore posts in the same categories: Practice Tips for Young Attorneys

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