Your most important ally at your firm is your legal assistant. She does the things that make you look good and frees up time to tackle bigger, more important tasks. If you want to succeed at your firm, foster a respectful, caring relationship with your secretary and with the rest of the staff. How do you do that? Consider the following:
Be considerate. Your secretary is first and foremost a person. She wants and deserves to be treated with respect, consideration and appreciation. Think about your superiors in your firm. Do any of them treat you poorly? Treat you as fungible? How do they make you feel? How willing are you to go the extra mile for them? When it comes to staff, follow the golden rule - treat them the way you would want them to treat you.
Curb emergencies. How often do you find yourself asking your secretary to stay late because of an “emergency?” How often is it truly an emergency and how often is it poor planning on your part? Whenever you work on a project which will require your secretary’s help, get her involved early in the process so that she can do her job well before five.
Get involved. We all have interests outside of work. Many of us are involved in charities or organizations that we care deeply about. If your secretary has such an interest or involvement, see how you can help. Maybe you can help her with a food drive for a local shelter or lend a hand revitalizing the local youth center. Her appreciation will show up in her work.
Respect personal time. During the eight hours your secretary is at work, spouses will call, family emergencies will arise and issues from the home front will have to be dealt with. Give your secretary the time and space to deal with them. Attempts to stamp out these interruptions in the work day will only serve to alienate your secretary and ironically, make her less, not more, productive.
Be clear and precise. When asking your secretary for help, give clear and precise direction to ensure that you and her are on the same page regarding assignments. Consider taking the extra couple of minutes to write a detailed e-mail about what you want accomplished. The extra time you spend at the beginning of an assignment will be recouped when you get back exactly what you asked for.
The key to working well with yours secretary and your staff is taking the time to put them first so that they can follow your lead and put you and your cases first. To be served, you must first learn to serve.