When I was in law school, I remember always hearing the comment that law school teaches you the law but it does not teach you how to be a lawyer. I still hear that comment from time to time, and obviously there is truth to the statement. I mean for better or for worse, there is no class on billing hours.
Law school also doesn’t teach you how to be a boss or how to manage other people. This is one of the parts about being an attorney that I have had a difficult time getting used to. I went straight from college to law school, so I never had a job before where I was really in charge of what other people were doing, not to mention responsible for the things that other people did. One of the things that I think makes being a boss particularly difficult for a young lawyer, or for me at least, is the fact that you have to be a boss to people who have been doing their job a lot longer than you’ve been doing yours. It is definitely great to be able to work with experienced paralegals, legal secretaries, etc. when you’re a young lawyer. There is a lot that goes on and needs to be done behind the scenes of a lawyer’s practice. Having people who know their stuff is incredibly important. However, giving assignments to paralegals or secretaries who are vastly more experienced than me has been a very nerve-wracking/awkward thing for me to get over.
The biggest thing that has helped me to get over this awkwardness was for me to focus on communication. Apparently poor communication from attorneys is one of the biggest complaints from paralegals and support staff.
I completely understand that, and communication can be tough. Sometimes I feel as though I’d rather just do a task myself than explain to someone else how I would like the task done. It’s hard for me to tear myself away from my work to do it, but when I do it is generally worthwhile. I’ll be honest, I also have no problem with being thought of as a nice person to work for/with. I actually value that a lot and want my co-workers to be able to come to me with work-related (and non work-related) issues if need be. Especially working at a small firm, it’s helpful if I am in tune with what other people are working on. However, it’s not mean to give someone a task and to instruct them clearly how to get the task done. That’s the job and everyone is ultimately better for it. Even though it may be your name on the papers, or your name on the line for the work, it doesn’t make you and your support staff any less of a team!
Has anyone else had issues in their new role as “boss?”