Lessons Learned – My Interaction with the GC


Just coming off a high of a great event which I had the privilege to organize and be a part.  My trip to one of our offices outside of New York was supposed to be the first event where the General Counsel (GC) of a very large financial firm was going to meet with the paralegal team outside of New York and have an informal discussion.  I hoped it would go well.  I hoped the GC had a good time since this was the first time we were all meeting each other…… I hoped no one asked a crazy question.  Most of all I hoped we at least had enough people to sit around the very large table which was looking larger by the minute.

The event was great….. we had people standing up in the room (so yeah…. enough came) there was networking going on after the event and the questions were all very well thought out as they were professional…… Why did I expect any less from the group of paralegals I have worked with?  Am I crazy?

The GC had great advice for all us and I am going to be writing in other posts some of her other advice.  This time I want to talk to you all about making mistakes.  We all do it and as the GC put it……. “my mistakes sometimes involve billions of dollars.”  This statement put in perspective for me and I hope it does for you as well.

We all Make Mistakes

While listening to one of the GC’s answers to a question that was asked I realized that all the time we spend worrying about a mistake we made is wasted time.  Yes, feel bad about it.  You should feel bad about it but learn from it.  Take time to feel bad.  Tell yourself that you are going to “lay on the floor and cry” for a period of time but then get up and move on.  Come up with a solution to the problem and take steps to implement that solution.  Figure out why you made the mistake.  Was it because you weren’t paying attention?  Was it because you didn’t have the information you needed?  Is it because you were too busy and didn’t have time?  These are all valid reasons but they are all things you can control the next time and ensure you don’t make the same mistake:

If you weren’t paying attention:

Take steps to make sure you re-read the document.  Normally I write the first draft and then walk away.  If I have time I try to walk away for a day and then come back to it.  I find that when I separate myself from something I create I have a new perspective on it when I get back to it and when I read it again it sounds much different than it had sounded earlier.

Ask someone else to review it.  I find sometimes that it’s better to have someone else’s opinion and review of a document I’ve been working on for hours.  I know what I want too say so sometimes when I read it I may miss words.  The brain plays tricks on us and sometimes invents words that aren’t there.  Someone else will have a fresh perspective and is not expecting to see anything so these “silly” omissions will show up really easily for them.

You didn’t have all the information

Ask questions.  Sometimes we are given an assignment and don’t take the time assess what it is that we need in order to complete that assignment.  It’s valid that when you are given the assignment, more often than not, you are not going to know what it is that you need….let’s face it.  You may not know the case, you may not know the full background.  When I’m faced with this situation I tell the attorney that I will need to take a look at the project/assignment and immediate ask to put time on their calendar to talk about what my approach will be as well as ask for further information if I feel like I need it.  Most lawyers will be happy to have that second meeting with you.  It means that the end product is going to be close to perfect (we’re not perfect and if you think you are….. get off that horse).

You were handling 1,000,000 other things at the same time

I have been guilty of this one so many times.  I have taken on too much because I feel bad saying NO, or it’s a really awesome opportunity  and …. ugh!! what do you know, it came right at the same time that other really cool project presented itself and now I have these two huge projects on my plate and I’m going to be pulling my hair out.  As much as try to keep it all together, eventually something is going to go wrong.  As much as we want to believe you are great multi-taskers, most of us are not great at consistently multi-tasking.  I can tell you that usually I can feel when I have reached my limit and am starting to burn the candle at both ends.  When that happens, the end product is not something I will be proud of.

Don’t take on too much.  It’s ok to say no and let the lawyer know you are busy.  Let the attorney know you want to be considered for the next project and explain that you are currently working on … blah blah blah and really want to make sure you do a good job.  I bet you that the attorney is going to go back, assign the project to someone else but will come back to you at a later time because they know you will be responsible and professional and will handle their project the way it needs to be handled.

there are also those times when you think you can do something and then, when you find out what it entails you realize you will not be able to finish it……. Yeah, you know what I”m talking about.  Let the lawyer know about this as soon as possible.  Don’t keep hoping that miraculously you will be able to complete it on time.  Don’t wait for the last minute to say you couldn’t finish it.  Doing that may make the lawyer miss a deadline and will absolutely make you look unprofessional.  You can bet you won’t get many other assignments from that lawyer.

Conclusion

Remember, mistakes are part of life and part of learning.  If we didn’t make mistakes we wouldn’t learn anything new.  The trick is to make sure you own up to it.  Reach out and let people know you made a mistake but you have a solution.  You have worked through a process to ensure that it won’t happen again and then implement that process.  Apologize and move on.

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Every Legal Department Needs A Paralegal Department


“Don’t make excuses for why you can’t get it done. Focus on all the reasons why you must make it happen”

It’s been a year since I made the suggestion to our general counsel. Since then I’ve had some really good and positive reinforcement and then there are those days when it seems that all the naysayers line up to make my life miserable. That includes the naysayer in my head. Don’t look at me like that. We all have that one voice in the deepest darkest corners of our brains. The one who tells us all the time that we can’t do something. Recently, she has been using the following excuses with me:

    • why do you bother? Things are what they are. 
    • It’s been like this for so long, what makes you think it’s not by design?
    • No one cares how hard you’re working!
    • You are not smart enough or experienced enough to do this.
    • One day you’re going to get found out and it’s going to be really embarrassing.
    • Please!!!! You’re old enough to just skate right through and not let this stuff bother you.  It’s not going to benefit you anymore.

    It’s a very powerful and loud voice which makes it really hard to ignore.  So, instead of ignoring it, I acknowledge it and find answers to ITS questions.  I find that when I come up with answers the voice becomes a little less annoying and less loud and it actually turns into a helpful friend.  By forcing myself to coming up with answers to its questions I force myself to think about what it is that I really want to do and come up with different paths to accomplishing what I set out to accomplish.

    Believe me, when I first came up with the idea for a Paralegal Department at this very large company where I work the voice was enormously strong.  What are you thinking?  They are never going to listen to you.  You have been here for a minute. Things have been the same for so long and they work.  Lawyers don’t want us to tell them how to do their jobs….who to hire and how to work with them.  You are going to ruffle people’s feathers and now is not a good time to to do that.  There were plenty of opportunities for me to stop moving forward. I chose to focus on the reasons I had to make it happen.  

    There are over 200 paralegals in this firm and they are counting on me.  Ha!!! Many of them didn’t even know I existed and some of them didn’t even know they wanted this type of organization.  However, just like Steve Jobs said (and I”m no Steve Jobs) people don’t know what they want until they want it.  I think Ford Said “If I had asked people what they wanted they would have said faster horses.”  It could have been someone else who said that…… I’m really not sure.  Who said it is not important.  I knew I could make a difference, so I did.

    This month marks a year and our Paralegal Networks is now chartered in EMEA and APAC.  As I write this post I’m getting ready to fly out to Chicago with our General Counsel for a conference where the GC will be address a group of paralegals in Chicago and throughout the rest of the US (working on broadcasting or recording it for EMEA and APAC).  We are on our way.

    I say all this to tell you that you must believe in yourself.  Only you will know how much you can take on and what it is that your vision can being to you and all those around you.  I say this to let you know that we all have those voices that will stop us from accomplishing our goals.  Those voices are not the enemy.  They exist to help us stay away from danger.  Listen to that voice but take the risk.  Use the voice as a guide and as a friend.  Answer the voices questions and calm it down.  Become the voices partner and work together.  

    Hope you enjoyed this post. I am working on doing a series of what the Network is up to and what you can do to start your own network where you work.  Having those likeminded people is essential for a healthy and prosperous career.

    XoXo

    Ana

    Time to Make that Move….. Or is it?


    I know that it’s been a while, again, since I have been here.  In all honesty it has been a crazy couple of weeks at the office.

    For some of us in the corporate world the end of the first quarter is when we are trying to figure out out goals and where we want to be in the short term as well as the long term.  We should always be thinking that way.  That’s not the hard part.  Most of you know that I have short term and long term goals all visualized and planned out.  However, this is a difficult year for me because the short term goals that I had envisioned for myself do not appear to be working out.  However, the chances of my long term goals coming to fruition seem to be a bit more in focus now and perhaps not as long term as I had originally planned.  So, all good right?  Well, yes, but ….. hmmm sometimes that’s even more stressful.

    There have been some changes to the makeup of my team and all through no fault of anyone on the team it has been the catalyst for my feeling as if it’s time to move.  At the same time as all these other things are going on in my very “small” world the larger “world” has a plan to develop a paralegal career path and growth opportunities.  Hello????? Does this sound like something I’ve been waiting for?  Why, yes, thank you.  I will take it.  However, what was I thinking….. Now panic is setting in.  I’m meeting new people, they want to meet me.  I need to figure out how to do what I’m supposed to do and all the while, I am still hold on to my “day job” trying to carve out a larger role for myself.  All I want to do is make sure all paralegals have a voice.  I can’t screw this one up.  I still don’t have this new role but things are so clear I can almost taste this new job and I don’t’ want to jinx myself……..Have I already lost you?

    All this to say that I’m here.  I’m thinking up and have a few things to talk to you about but right now I’m thinking about myself.  I need to do that so that I can help more of us who really deserve it need it and frankly have waited long enough to get the recognition that they deserve.  I am here, I will be chatting with you and please, by all means, come chat with me on Twitter, I’ll be there ready to “play” and exchange ideas with you.  Please don’t hold it against me if I’m not here for a little while longer.  Let me get this one right and I’ll be back with so much more that you will be totally sick of me.

    Thank you all for your support

    Ana

     

    Finally Here


    It’s been a very very very long time since I have posted here.  I am pretty sure it was something I did but for over a year I was not able to find the blog.  I’m not sure what I did but I most likely clicked when I should have kept myself from clicking ….. the blog went missing.  I kept seeing your comments and your questions but I was not able to interact.  I’m so sorry.

    Again…. not sure what I did today but here I am.  I have regained access to the blog and I am ready to go.

    So……… without dwelling in the past and trying to figure out what happened, I want to concentrate on the future and figure out where to go from here.  I know I want to post more about what it is that we, as paralegals do.  I want to help you navigate the career development maze and help you learn from my mistakes so that hopefully it won’t take you as long as it has taken me to get ahead.  Most of all, I want to work with you and be here for you.  Please continue to send me your emails and your thoughts and your requests.  I am sincerely happy to be back and I can’t wait to have a cup of coffee and a chat.

    Ana

    Famous Paralegals


    Recently I received an email from Online Paralegal Programs letting me know about a new study they have conducted regarding the job outlook and educational requirements for the paralegal profession.  If you know me by now, I’m always always interested in those statistics.

    Although those statistics are important to know what got my attention this time was the fact that they took the time to research some very important paralegals.  Makes us all proud to belong to such a great profession.

    I have been given permission to post the graph here on my site.  I think it’s really important to share this type of information.  One of the things I seem to always be saying is that I’m not a paralegal by accident.  Some of us really enjoy what we do and we have carefully picked our profession.  I am not a paralegal because I couldn’t be anything else.  It’s true that I fell into the profession by a happy coincidence….. I needed a job and that small law firm was hiring.  I was eager and they were willing to give me a chance.  That’s all I needed.  The rest is history and I have since fallen in love with what I do….. I’m one of the lucky ones.

    Enough about me…. Please shut me up.  Here is the one page study from Online Paralegal Programs .

     
    Famous Paralegals
    Source: Online-Paralegal-Programs.com

    Decisions on Coming Back to Blogging


    I’m not promising anything since every time I promise to be back, life takes over and I go months and months without posting.  It shouldn’t be this difficult but apparently it is.  I know that this is what I want to be doing but sometimes I just don’t have the energy to come home from work and sit in front of this computer to write some more…. then there are other times when I could actually do it but there is really nothing of interest to share.

    As most of you know I have three blogs.  I thought it would be best to keep them all separate since they are all different aspects of my life (this post will be posted on all of them).  The Paralegal in Camelot is a blog about my professional life.  Living in Camelot is a blog about my home life, my adventures into a healthy lifestyle, natural cleaning products an tips, discussions natural medicine (I’m not a doctor so don’t take my discussions as professional advice.  Those are just my thoughts), my dabbling in yoga and meditation, etc.  Then there is the Vegan Paralegal.  I have been trying to go completely vegan for over a year now and something always seems to derail my mojo.  That blog is my travels into that world and how I manage the obstacles……

    All of these blogs have been so neglected.  I really want to dedicate more time to all of them and am really trying to figure out how to best do that.  Please be patient with me and when I can figure out a way I promise (and this promise I can keep) you will not be disappointed.  You will have great content and great ideas and a very supportive person on your side….. I just have to figure out how to get there and not derail my entire life.

    If you have any ideas I would gladly listen to you.  Please let me know how you manage if you are managing the same issue.

    XoXo

    Ana

     

    In The News – What has the Paralegal Been Reading


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    As most of you know reading is one of the ways I relax.  I’m not much into watching television so, after a long day, while the husband relaxes watching whatever shows he enjoys watching I am usually sitting or laying down next to him reading on my iPad.  These are some of the bits of the things which caught my interest.

    After a Summer full of activities and sometimes spending more money than most of us budgeted for the fall is a great time to revisit our spreadsheets, or Mint or whatever method you use to make sure you are going to have enough to enjoy the holidays.  Mint published a great list of Money Moves for Fall.

    Are you guilty of pointing fingers?  Do you sometimes get annoyed at how some people seem to have it so easy and seem to be struggling to get ahead?  Well, I know I am guilty of that, sometimes.  We’re all human and sometimes we can’t help but be a bit jealous or envious of those who seem to have it all.  This week I read a great article in brainpickings.org.  Sometimes what looks like privilege to us is actually the product of many years of struggle.  Take a moment to read this article and then take some time to actually assess if you agree.  Some Thoughts on “Privilege.”

    Every morning and every evening when I’m commuting from New Jersey into New York for work I wonder if other people go through the same annoyance as I do.  For instance, last night, the subway was so crowded I couldn’t find a place to hold on to.  I’m short, so I can’t reach the top railing — you know the one that hangs above you head — so I need to rely on the poles. Well, unless I morphed into Gumbywoman I was not going to be able to hold on.  I tried to balance myself without holding on which makes for an interesting commute.  Good thing I was not wearing heels.  This morning I found some pictures Proof that Rush House is Kinda Terrible Everywhere which made me feel much better.  Misery does love company, after all.

    While we’re on the subject of pictures….. What’s this about?  I do’t even know what to say to that.  Is it really necessary to post a notice like this?  What are we coming to?

    You all know I really enjoy being a paralegal.  Maybe I’ve always been lucky and I have never been treated disrespectfully because I’m a paralegal.  Sure, I have been disrespected.  However, not because of my chosen profession but because some people are just jerks.  They can’t help that and honestly not something I can change.  It’s their problem and I can only feel sorry for them.  When I saw this article in Legal Cheek, I thought it best to write something here in case some of you are thinking about becoming paralegals.  It’s funny and some of them are probably going to wind up in my Pinterest but it’s not what the profession is about.  Remember you do have a choice in everything you do.

    XoXo

    Ana