Tips to stop interruptions


I wanted to contact you to see what advice you can give on mentoring younger Paralegals, and co-workers. I am in a pseudo position where I am a Senior Paralegal due to the time I’ve been at the firm. When I started, I was recruited due to recommendations by the then current Paralegal who left about two to three years ago.

I’ve always looked up to her until she became overly offensive. I began to discontinue communicating with her and do so in limited capacity at present. (in my personal opinion, she had extreme stress and mental health issues due to family member problems – however, i can’t really go there but we had worked together for a number of years – at least 5)

Outside of this process, the firm now has five paralegals, all of whom I mentor, assist, and provide recommendations. I can’t really say I train them, however, essentially, I do in some fashion. Typically, if they want a form, or need advice, I am the first one they call; which in some ways is a compliment and at other times is overwhelming.

I’ve let them know if my door to my office is closed, to knock first, and if there isn’t an answer then I am likely unavailable. Typically, I let them know if they have questions, to email me and if I can answer I will; however, I typically will set up a brief meeting to review their issues.

I also schedule monthly mentoring meetings, which are volunteer based, to avoid the firm in paying for a lunch. For the most part, we’ve all made ourselves available to attend these meetings. Some of them we have enjoyed free lunch from various litigation support vendors, whom we frequently look to support our cases.

So in essence, after the long-winded background, what I need is a mentor/coach in my position to be the best mentor I can be. You’ve been a tremendous source of information along with all the various persons you have interviewed on your monthly telephone conference calls.

Any reccommendations and support you can offer would be welcomed with open arms.  Thank you advace for all you do!

Shari Bynum

Hi, Shari — You are in a tough position – obviously the younger paralegals look up to you and you feel a responsibility to help them as much as possible.

It seemed to me that you are just looking for a few tips. If you want more — as in one on one coaching — just let me know. Here are my tips:

1. Remember that you are actually enabling these paralegals. It is easier to ask you than to figure it out for themselves. Suggest that they try to do it on their own and then review it with you (and have a specific time in your day for the review). This is really the only way they learn. In the long run, this step would be the most help to them.

2. Is there a paralegal who would be “second in command” to you? Suggest they ask her first and then come to you (again at a specific time) if she is unable to help.

3. Would a FAQ book help? Are there any systems you can put in place that will help them do the work themselves without asking you questions? Keep track of any questions you’re asked over and over again. Tell them to do the same so they can put together their own notebook of FAQ for their own reference.

4. You’ve indicated that if your door is closed they’re to knock and if no answer then you’re not available. Take this one step further with a sign on your door…maybe even one of those “clocks” you see on businesses that say they’ll return at 11 am. Indicate when you’ll be available.

5. It’s important that they understand that you can multi-task with the best of them but that you can’t get your work done if you are constantly interrupted. Work with them to set up specific times when you are available and when you’re not. Make them part of this process (tell them you need their help).

6. Is it possible to hold a meeting with anyone who has questions at a specific time of day…perhaps for the first 15 minutes in the morning and again after lunch? Have them save questions for the meeting so they can be handled all at once.

7. Your scheduled lunches are a great idea. This builds camaraderie. It might also be a good time to discuss your issues…how you feel (overwhelmed!) and ask them how this can be fixed. Again, ask for their help and make them part of the solution. Explain that this will be best for the firm and result in everyone being more productive.

Shari…I hope this helps. Let me know if I can do anything else for you. As always, I’m…