How to Maximize the Full Potential of Your Paralegal Team
Jamy J. Sullivan, J.D., Robert Half
No legal professional is an island. Winning cases and satisfying clients involves not only a masterful strategy but also a tremendous amount of detail work. It also requires professionals who can act as a sounding board for lawyers and float ideas of their own as well. That’s why every legal manager needs a strong team they can rely on, including attorneys as well as paralegals and legal support professionals.
Paralegals, who are on the front line every day reviewing discovery, scheduling appearances and drafting documents, are vital contributors to law firm and corporate legal department teams. But in a typical fast-moving legal organization, legal managers may not always take the time to recognize the full scope of their paralegals’ abilities. Here are some ways you can partner with your paralegal colleagues to work more efficiently, cut costs and improve results.
Assign substantive responsibilities
Clerical tasks such as answering the phone or updating a database are not the best use of your paralegals’ time. Assigning complex tasks to your paralegals has several advantages. Giving them the kind of granular, document-based case work that sometimes falls to junior attorneys frees up the latter to focus on more strategic elements of the case. Offering this work, similar to what other industries refer to as stretch assignments, can boost the morale and engagement of support staff and is more cost-effective since pay and billing rates for paralegals are lower than those for attorneys.
Incentivize top performance with top compensation
Deep talent shortages in the legal field mean retaining your paralegals should be a top priority. Also, the longer attorneys and support staff work together, the deeper their rapport. Use resources like the Robert Half Salary Guide to benchmark salaries, and act quickly if your compensation is falling behind that of your competitors. Also be flexible and open-minded when evaluating requests for expanded perks and benefits, especially schedule flexibility.
Help your paralegals develop their careers
Foster a learning culture that encourages paralegals to broaden their knowledge base and skills. Meet with them one-to-one to assess their professional development priorities and tailor the scope of future training. Is upskilling called for in some cases? Another way to boost your firm or department’s learning culture is to encourage cross-generational and reverse mentoring relationships, where attorneys learn from paralegals and vice versa. For example, an entry-level paralegal may have much to learn about the law and conversely, they may have much to offer more experienced attorneys about leveraging technology tools or social media to expand their presence.
Keep a close eye on workloads and well-being
Jamy J. Sullivan is executive director of the legal practice at Robert Half, the world’s first and largest specialized talent solutions firm. Robert Half offers contract, temporary and permanent placement solutions, and is the parent company of Protiviti®, a global consulting firm. Visit RobertHalf.com.