There is no doubt that today’s job market is extremely competitive. With firm’s downsizing and the blurred lines between various legal roles some individuals may resort to holding their job hostage in order to create a sense of job security. Job or position hostaging is when an individual takes various measures to ensure that no one else knows how to fully do all of the functions in their job. This may seem to be a smart move because it places the individual in a position of control in an unstable and uncontrollable job market. An example of job hostaging is when an individual is the only one in the entire office that knows how to effectively use a certain system or when only one person in the entire firm knows how to do a certain function. In the event this particular employee is unexpectedly out of the office due to an unplanned absence, the entire organization is in disarray as everyone scrambles to find out how to do a task that other individuals are reliant on.
If this situation were to occur in a relationship it would quickly be labeled as dysfunctional and abusive. Let’s say one partner has all the pins, passwords, account numbers, and checkbooks to every account that the couple has. The one partner is placed at the mercy of the other for all their financial needs. In the event the partner that has all the account information is ill or placed in a situation that he or she cannot provide the other with the necessary finances the household quickly goes into panic mode.
Job hostaging may seem necessary in a competitive job market but there are other ways to get an advantage and create job security without resorting to job hostaging. When improving intrinsic value is placed over extrinsic measures and practices that are merely manipulative attempts to create and maintain control, then can an individual focus on and exemplify their true value to their organization.
Legal Research is primarily considered a function that is delegated to paralegals. Although, attorneys do conduct legal research it is a paralegal that is required to be proficient at legal research.
Legal research requires a great deal of time and patience as it is not a task that can be performed without careful consideration of how the research results will determine the outcome of a case. Whether a paralegal is working for an attorney or for themselves it still requires the same level of attention. Why then do most paralegals not understand the basics of legal research and spend the time and energy to develop these skills.
Becoming a proficient legal researcher requires a great deal of time and effort. Follow these tips and cut the time that it takes for you to complete your legal research projects:
Unless a paralegal has goals to become an attorney working in the paralegal profession can seem to be limited and result in paralegals becoming lax in their career aspirations and development. Because over half of all paralegals work in law firms it is important to understand how to advance. Unlike attorneys who advance in their careers by becoming partners and obtaining other coveted positions in a firm there are no such options for paralegals within a firm. In order, for a paralegal to advance in their careers it usually is the result of obtaining training and credentials that are obtained outside of the firm. Although, these are definitely worth while endeavors to pursue they are not easily attainable. The dilemma of paralegals still being considered senior level secretaries or disbarred attorneys can make advancement even more problematic. So what is the solution to this dilemma?
Following are tried and true methods to paralegal career advancement:
To advance in the legal industry as a paralegal it may be a little more difficult than advancing as an attorney because of the box that paralegals are placed in, but with a little ingenuity and a lot of hard work it is possible to go beyond the limitations of the secretary and disbarred attorney stigma.
Timekeeping is an essential aspect of a paralegal’s job and a paralegal must think in line with how an organization is structured to understand the ramifications of unmet billable hour quotas. Unmet billable hour quotas means the loss of potential profits for an organization. Working within an organization that requires time to be tracked can become extremely frustrating when the proper tools are not in place to track time. Even when you do have the necessary time tracking tools it can be confusing to determine how much time to allocate to all of the tasks that compete for your time over the course of a week, month, etc. Whether or not you are required to bill for your time does not matter in the big scheme of things. What does matter is how effectively you are working and how long it is taking you to complete various tasks that you are assigned to. If there is a lack of understanding on the part of the paralegal that they are mini-organizations within an organization then the understanding of why timekeeping is so important will be confusing.
Similar to an organization it is not only important to know what you are making but also how you are making it. An organization has a pulse on their earnings as well as how they are stacking up against the competition. Are their prices in line with that of competitors? Do their service offerings allow them to function as well or better than the competition? Can they offer more bang for the buck? These are all important questions for a paralegal to consider too. Is the amount of time you are billing for, which equates to real dollars and cents line up with other paralegals within your organization? Can you compete with your colleagues as far as the quality of your work product is concerned? Do you have a grasp on the proper allocation of time being spent on the various functions within the paralegal role?
The answer to these questions should not be an afterthought but considered and planned for throughout the course of working on various functions. How can you improve upon something and reach a goal that is invisible? If consideration is not taken at the onset of working on specific tasks, projects, and functions the elimination of timewasters will go unrevealed. The revelation is the key to why there is a need for a concise and proactive approach to timekeeping for paralegals. Often you will be told that the value you place on yourself is the value that others place on you. Placing value on your time is what is being done when it is tracked. Unmet billable hour quotas means that you do not place much worth on your time so rather than getting paid for performing a meaningful task you would rather waste it by spending it doing something other than what you are being paid for.
From the time your day starts to the time that it ends it is crucial to know where your time is being spent. If too much time is being spent on the phone with your boyfriend or conversing with friends and colleagues on social media sites billable hours will go unmet. Now if you are a specialist at creative timekeeping this may not seem to pose a dilemma, but eventually either billable hour quotas will not be met or work product will suffer. One of the two will eventually suffer due to the lack of effective time management and/or timekeeping practices. Improving your timekeeping is the first step to take on the route to maximizing paralegal efficiency, but there are other ways that will increase efficiency and determine how much time you are billing and for what. Start improving your efficiency today by utilizing the following methods:
The second step to becoming an indispensable paralegal is accountability. This is an integral piece in becoming an indispensable paralegal because it is not inherent within the profession. Unlike attorneys whose actions are regulated by state bars a paralegal’s actions are dictated by their employer and their own personal ethics. If a paralegal was trained on the job by a less than ethical attorney or has a shaky ethical foundation those same shoddy ethics will go with them to any position they ever work in. On the other hand if a paralegal chooses to adhere to a set of ethics that they build into their career over time these ethical standards become part of their personal repertoire of professional characteristics.
Most paralegals will consider themselves to be ethical, but usually when you dissect their ethical standards it is usually tied to the policies, procedures and do’s and don’ts of their current employer. A paralegal that goes the extra mile to build ethics into their career will perform the tasks of their job with a concern about how their actions impact their career and not just their current job. This usually translates into better job performance than a paralegal that is just doing what is necessary to keep the boss of their back and keeping a job. Most employers will never know that a paralegal is cutting corners, overbilling clients, or not returning client calls until they get slapped with a bar complaint or a malpractice suit. This is too high of a price to pay for an employee that is probably being paid a fraction of the costs that it will take to defend against a bar complaint or malpractice suit, and some employers take the necessary precautions to prevent these situations. Although, there are numerous debates about what is necessary for someone to be considered a paralegal, what will never be debated is an employer’s concern about exposing itself to ethical breaches. When a job post reads “Looking for paralegal with ABA approved certificate” that employer is not just looking for someone with a certain body of knowledge they are also looking for a way to weed out paralegals that may not have the professional standards that they require. At the end of the day there are numerous paralegals vying for one job and who gets it can simply be the ability for an employer to measure the professional standards of its prospective employee.