f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

July 23, 2003

They Don’t Teach Humility in Law School

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 4:20 pm

There’s an article posted today on the ABA Journal webpage that is destined to be hanging in a lot of law firm snack rooms.  It’s called Working Together 101: Lawyers May Have the Degree, But They Can Take a Lesson From Support Staff (dated July 24, 2003, by Stephanie Francis Ward, from the July edition of ABA Journal ).

Meant to help new associate lawyers appreciate and work more smoothly with support staff, the article has lessons that apply to all lawyers who work with nonlawyers:

The author advises:

Secretaries don’t often have advanced degrees, but they often know more about some parts of legal practice than the associates they work for. Not recognizing that is one of the biggest mistakes young lawyers make, says [Sharon Davis, a Denver-based legal staffing advisor].

“Support staff knows the court rules, what needs to be filed where and what the deadlines are,” she says. “Associates have been educated through law school and passed the bar, but they still don’t know … how many copies of something you have to file with the federal court.”

Others who specialize in staff issues say secretaries can teach young lawyers a lot, if lawyers are willing to listen. If associates take the time to learn their secretaries’ strengths, the knowledge can be a big boost for young lawyers’ careers.

Sometimes associates come out of school with quite a large ego and attitude,” says Gale Jarosz, human resources director of a Seattle law firm. “I coach them that they need to leave that behind and work as a team with their secretary.”  [emphases added]

Amen.  Working as a team with the client is another important skill needed at all levels of the profession.  Lawyers need to learn to listen to what the client really wants and what the client knows that can help the lawyer do a more effective and more efficient job.   I hope the skills of cooperating and listening are getting a lot more attention now than they got when I was in law school three decades ago.  Back then, they weren’t in the curriculum at all.  And, it often shows.  Such people skills would go a long way toward improving the reputation of lawyers (inside and outside their offices).

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