Trust between a lawyer and a paralegal is crucial and contributes to a good working environment. Here are some behaviours to establish this culture of trust.
According to Marc-André De Sève, president of the Canadian Association of Paralegals, correcting typos in a document or bringing coffee is not how a paralegal builds a bond of trust with the lawyer. “There is a lot of misunderstanding about the profession,” he says. “Some lawyers consider paralegals as secretaries, without making use of their full potential… It must be remembered that after leaving school, we have a background in law that is not far from that of a trainee lawyer. Even though we are stronger in the technicals.”
It’s therefore by asserting their legal skills and by asking that these skills be respected that paralegals can build the confidence of the lawyer.
There is more. From experience, Marc-André De Sève has found that demonstrating a real willingness to learn will move the relationship with the lawyer to a next step. “Don’t hesitate to ask the lawyer questions in order to understand his choice of strategies. It’s essential to demonstrate a desire to be involved in cases. Be proactive, rather than just being a performer.”
This willingness to learn and be involved has already been worthwhile for Marc-André De Sève. Early in his career, this legal technician had his place at the discussion table, and his ideas were considered just like those of the lawyer for whom he was working.
Attitude vs skills
In addition, Marc-André De Sève reminds us that an employee’s attitude is often more decisive in his career’s progress than his skills. Briefly, an employee who is good company has a greater chance of attracting the support of his boss. “If the lawyer sees the paralegal’s willingness, he will not hesitate to take the time to explain to him how to improve his work performance or to correct an error.”
We will want to treat the lawyer with respect, the legal technician adds. “It’s a basic principle that is true for all jobs and all professions!”
Discretion and discernment
It should be pointed out that lawyers have an obligation of confidentiality towards their clients. Consequently, paralegals must also demonstrate that they are able to exercise discretion and discernment in managing various cases.