Working with Paralegals Whose Styles Differ from Mine

Our legal team is expanding and, I’m now working with several attorneys and paralegals whose working style is very different from mine. We often butt heads which does little to alleviate our high-pressure work environment. Any advice on how we can improve our interaction?

Working well with others is an essential skill for career success, especially in law practices that often rely heavily on legal teams. But sometimes the most challenging part of getting the job done is working effectively with colleagues who possess a different work style, communication approach or experience level.

Conflicts are inevitable if legal professionals don’t try to reach common ground and learn to adapt.  So rather than allowing a frustrating and stressful situation to continue, try these tips for improving collaboration:

  1. Acknowledge differences. Talking about your different work styles allows room for compromise and may even bring some humor to the situation. Once you’ve both acknowledged your different work styles or preferences, it becomes much easier to negotiate how best to proceed.

  2. Avoid miscommunication. Maybe you keep getting your wires crossed with a team member because you’re trading emails or instant messages on the fly, rather than actually talking. Try to find a better solution, such as more face-to-face communication. Ask leading questions so that the other person gives you specific answers with the detail you’re seeking. If necessary, summarize the information you’ve been given and ask for final confirmation.
  3. Remember the positive. Although it may be initially challenging to work with someone whose professional style is completely at odds with yours, it doesn’t mean the person doesn’t have unique contributions to make. Once you understand someone’s approach and preferences, working together becomes less about differences and more about taking advantage of each other’s individual strengths.

Taking the time to understand how your colleagues prefer to do their jobs, as well as how you approach work, won’t solve every issue, but it can help you build more effective professional relationships. As a bonus, you’ll be seen as someone with a flexible style who can work well with anyone. And this quality can only help your career in today’s team-oriented work environments.