Working with staff as SA

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Anonymous User
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Working with staff as SA

Postby Anonymous User » Sun May 20, 2012 9:01 pm

Not an aspie thread, I swear.

I have never had a secretary or any other semblance of a support staff. Curious what those of you with more experience with this type of dynamic recommend as best for having a successful relationship from day 1.

Obviously I know the straight forward stuff, like being nice and not dropping work on someone at 5 on a Friday, etc. but how do you handle the trickier dynamics like being (potentially) a lot younger/with less experience than someone in a staff role? Sit down on day 1 and ask what works best for them? Ask them to bring anything to your attention?

Honestly, just want to avoid looking like an idiot on day 1, ha.

Thanks in advance.

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blurbz
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Re: Working with staff as SA

Postby blurbz » Sun May 20, 2012 9:06 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Not an aspie thread, I swear.

I have never had a secretary or any other semblance of a support staff. Curious what those of you with more experience with this type of dynamic recommend as best for having a successful relationship from day 1.

Obviously I know the straight forward stuff, like being nice and not dropping work on someone at 5 on a Friday, etc. but how do you handle the trickier dynamics like being (potentially) a lot younger/with less experience than someone in a staff role? Sit down on day 1 and ask what works best for them? Ask them to bring anything to your attention?

Honestly, just want to avoid looking like an idiot on day 1, ha.

Thanks in advance.



Just treat them like real people: get to know them. They know a lot more than you and are definitely more valuable to the firm than you are at this point. Keep that in mind during your interactions with support staff. Ask questions of them, too--It'll help show that you recognize the knowledge disparity between the two of you and, if you're polite and genuine about it, they can help make sure you do good work. Remember, they've been around the firm for a while, they probably have an idea of what the partners/associates who give you work want and whether they have any idiosyncrasies that might be useful for you to know about.

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Re: Working with staff as SA

Postby Anonymous User » Sun May 20, 2012 9:46 pm

ALWAYS be nice. This should go without saying.
Be as friendly as you think is appropriate. Make small talk if they do or if they seem eager to chat. Otherwise a pleasant "hello" and maybe one question (how was your weekend?) and move along.
As an SA, in my firm I think the best course of action is basically to never ask support staff to do bitchwork for you because you don't want to do it. Partners and associates will ask them for copying, collating, binding, spell-checking, etc. You shouldn't.
Only ask them to do things for you when you don't know how to do it or cannot do it on your own. In that case, be very gracious and offer to help however you can.
YMMV.

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kalvano
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Re: Working with staff as SA

Postby kalvano » Sun May 20, 2012 9:47 pm

Paralegals and other staff can be your absolute best friend. For firm dynamics right now, you're probably at the same level as a paralegal. Talk to them, get to know them, ask them if you can help with anything if there is a slow moment for you. If you need their help with something, don't tell them, ask them if they would be willing to help you.

NotMyRealName09
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Re: Working with staff as SA

Postby NotMyRealName09 » Tue May 22, 2012 3:54 pm

I didn't really even know how to utilize my secretary while I was an SA, and even once I joined as an attorney, it took me awhile to learn the dynamic. Just be polite and deferential at first. Seriously, as an SA, I wouldn't even stress about working out a dynamic - you aren't really there that long.

When I first began, I actually straight up asked my assistant (I like that word better) what she could do. I think that is a good starting place. "Look, I'm brand new at this, so what sorts of things do you do in your job? What sorts of things do other attorneys typically ask you to do?" Start there.

ruski
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Re: Working with staff as SA

Postby ruski » Tue May 22, 2012 7:02 pm

in my experience doesn't really how matter how nice you are, they are not particularly going to like getting work from a 20 something year old. i gave mine some low level work to do (at the insistence of my partner, i would never feel comfortable giving her work as a summer). she was not too happy and made it pretty clear my assignment wasn't a real priority for her, even though i tried to make it clear it was really for a partner, who actually was breathing down my neck for a quick turnaround. they were much more attentive to the needs of the senior partners from what i saw. can't exactly blame them though, those are the ones that control their job.

there is really no non-awkward way around this situation. be nice, but at the same time you have to be a little firm. they are there to help you, not the other way around. ask them how their weekend was, have small talk with them, but when you need something just hand it over to them. dont be such a wuss ASKING if they have time to help you etc. just be firm but polite. you should not be asking them for help in the same way you would ask a partner for help.

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Re: Working with staff as SA

Postby Anonymous User » Tue May 22, 2012 8:04 pm

kalvano wrote:ask them if you can help with anything if there is a slow moment for you


I know that this would come off as really strange at my NYC biglaw firm. Assistants are expected to do a certain type of work, and summer associates are expected to do a certain type of work. There really is not that much overlap, and I could see some people thinking of it as a negative if you don't realize that.

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Re: Working with staff as SA

Postby Anonymous User » Tue May 22, 2012 8:39 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
kalvano wrote:ask them if you can help with anything if there is a slow moment for you


I know that this would come off as really strange at my NYC biglaw firm. Assistants are expected to do a certain type of work, and summer associates are expected to do a certain type of work. There really is not that much overlap, and I could see some people thinking of it as a negative if you don't realize that.


agreed this is completely inappropriate to ask. there are supposed to be YOUR support staff, not the other way around. try to emulate the first year associates. would a first year ever say this?

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kalvano
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Re: Working with staff as SA

Postby kalvano » Tue May 22, 2012 9:14 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
kalvano wrote:ask them if you can help with anything if there is a slow moment for you


I know that this would come off as really strange at my NYC biglaw firm. Assistants are expected to do a certain type of work, and summer associates are expected to do a certain type of work. There really is not that much overlap, and I could see some people thinking of it as a negative if you don't realize that.



That could be at a NYC firm, I have no idea. It's most definitely not that way at my firm, but that is a more midsize firm.

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Re: Working with staff as SA

Postby Anonymous User » Tue May 22, 2012 9:29 pm

kalvano wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
kalvano wrote:ask them if you can help with anything if there is a slow moment for you


I know that this would come off as really strange at my NYC biglaw firm. Assistants are expected to do a certain type of work, and summer associates are expected to do a certain type of work. There really is not that much overlap, and I could see some people thinking of it as a negative if you don't realize that.



That could be at a NYC firm, I have no idea. It's most definitely not that way at my firm, but that is a more midsize firm.


probably something more unique to your firm. I'm at a Texas biglaw firm, and it would definitely be inappropriate here to ask support staff to give work.

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Re: Working with staff as SA

Postby Anonymous User » Tue May 22, 2012 9:37 pm

My firm gave me a set of rough guidelines for when to use a paralegal vs. when to use secretaries/staff. Their bottom line rule is that paralegals are billable and staff are not, so if something is potentially billable it goes to a paralegal.

I think it should be fairly obvious when to use a paralegal in these settings. Any time someone above you gives you work, you should assume it is something for you to do unless they say otherwise.

If it's an admin task like transcribing notes, booking travel, entering time/billings, then you can give it to a secretary. I wouldn't be a douche about it and give them things that would take you 2 seconds to do, just use common sense.

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kalvano
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Re: Working with staff as SA

Postby kalvano » Tue May 22, 2012 11:02 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
kalvano wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
kalvano wrote:ask them if you can help with anything if there is a slow moment for you


I know that this would come off as really strange at my NYC biglaw firm. Assistants are expected to do a certain type of work, and summer associates are expected to do a certain type of work. There really is not that much overlap, and I could see some people thinking of it as a negative if you don't realize that.



That could be at a NYC firm, I have no idea. It's most definitely not that way at my firm, but that is a more midsize firm.


probably something more unique to your firm. I'm at a Texas biglaw firm, and it would definitely be inappropriate here to ask support staff to give work.



I will definitely defer to more knowledgeable people then.

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fatduck
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Re: Working with staff as SA

Postby fatduck » Tue May 22, 2012 11:04 pm

you're definitely gonna want to get through a few seasons of mad men before you start

SFConfidential
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Re: Working with staff as SA

Postby SFConfidential » Tue May 22, 2012 11:58 pm

fatduck wrote:you're definitely gonna want to get through a few seasons of mad men before you start


This.

Such a credited poast. The more Christina Hendricks, the better.

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holdencaulfield
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Re: Working with staff as SA

Postby holdencaulfield » Wed May 23, 2012 12:19 am

True story during my first week as an associate:

Me: Can you tell me where the fax machine is?
Paralegal: Don't you mean "Will you fax this for me?" I don't think our clients are paying you hourly to fax things.
Me: Touché. Thanks.

But seriously, building a good rapport with the staff is vital.

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Re: Working with staff as SA

Postby Anonymous User » Wed May 23, 2012 2:30 pm

holdencaulfield wrote:True story during my first week as an associate:

Me: Can you tell me where the fax machine is?
Paralegal: Don't you mean "Will you fax this for me?" I don't think our clients are paying you hourly to fax things.
Me: Touché. Thanks.

But seriously, building a good rapport with the staff is vital.


wait what? did he/she say that jokingly, or seriously? scary if the latter.

and, i could just do it myself without billing the clients, right?

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echamberlin8
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Re: Working with staff as SA

Postby echamberlin8 » Wed May 23, 2012 2:47 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
holdencaulfield wrote:True story during my first week as an associate:

Me: Can you tell me where the fax machine is?
Paralegal: Don't you mean "Will you fax this for me?" I don't think our clients are paying you hourly to fax things.
Me: Touché. Thanks.

But seriously, building a good rapport with the staff is vital.


wait what? did he/she say that jokingly, or seriously? scary if the latter.

and, i could just do it myself without billing the clients, right?


Yes, for some reason that seems to be a little scary to me as well. I'm a paralegal, albeit it a fairly new one, at a BigLaw firm, and I can't imagine ever saying that to an SA/associate.

I assume it works this way at most firms, but we bill our hours to the client as well. Granted, our billing rate is a good bit lower than associates, but it's not really very different from an SA's.

r6_philly
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Re: Working with staff as SA

Postby r6_philly » Wed May 23, 2012 10:17 pm

echamberlin8 wrote:I assume it works this way at most firms, but we bill our hours to the client as well. Granted, our billing rate is a good bit lower than associates, but it's not really very different from an SA's.


What firm bills paralegals at over $200/hr?
Last edited by r6_philly on Wed May 23, 2012 11:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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fatduck
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Re: Working with staff as SA

Postby fatduck » Wed May 23, 2012 10:20 pm

dude, even if you billed your time operating the fax machine, the client is paying like $15 for a fax. big fucking deal.

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holdencaulfield
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Re: Working with staff as SA

Postby holdencaulfield » Wed May 23, 2012 10:52 pm

echamberlin8 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
holdencaulfield wrote:True story during my first week as an associate:

Me: Can you tell me where the fax machine is?
Paralegal: Don't you mean "Will you fax this for me?" I don't think our clients are paying you hourly to fax things.
Me: Touché. Thanks.

But seriously, building a good rapport with the staff is vital.


wait what? did he/she say that jokingly, or seriously? scary if the latter.

and, i could just do it myself without billing the clients, right?


Yes, for some reason that seems to be a little scary to me as well. I'm a paralegal, albeit it a fairly new one, at a BigLaw firm, and I can't imagine ever saying that to an SA/associate.

I assume it works this way at most firms, but we bill our hours to the client as well. Granted, our billing rate is a good bit lower than associates, but it's not really very different from an SA's.



She said it in jest with a smile on her face. Whole point of the story: the staff is there for a reason. Build a good rapport with them and don't be afraid to ask for help.

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TTRansfer
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Re: Working with staff as SA

Postby TTRansfer » Wed May 23, 2012 11:20 pm

Treat the staff better than anyone else in the firm (or at least as good as you would the managing partner if you deal with him/her). The staff WILL be asked what they thought of you. If you end up coming off as a prick to the staff, say goodbye to any hope of an offer.

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TTRansfer
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Re: Working with staff as SA

Postby TTRansfer » Wed May 23, 2012 11:24 pm

holdencaulfield wrote:True story during my first week as an associate:

Me: Can you tell me where the fax machine is?
Paralegal: Don't you mean "Will you fax this for me?" I don't think our clients are paying you hourly to fax things.
Me: Touché. Thanks.

But seriously, building a good rapport with the staff is vital.


Had a similar thing. During my first week, I was making a case binder for a partner and the paralegal wanted to know why I was doing it and didn't give it to her. I just told her I wanted to do it myself. She then took it from me and re-did it all so it actually looked presentable. :lol:

It's become a bit of a running joke between me and a few members of the staff.

Treat the staff well. Make friends with them. Know their names. Joke with them. If any of them come to hate you, that is not a good thing at all. I've always heard that the staff has as much input as some partners do on who gets hired.

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echamberlin8
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Re: Working with staff as SA

Postby echamberlin8 » Thu May 24, 2012 2:37 pm

r6_philly wrote:
echamberlin8 wrote:I assume it works this way at most firms, but we bill our hours to the client as well. Granted, our billing rate is a good bit lower than associates, but it's not really very different from an SA's.


What firm bills paralegals at over $200/hr?


I assume we are talking about the billing rate that the client pays. I am a project assistant, the lowest of the low in terms of paralegals. Our standard billing rate is $195, and our "specialized rate" is $210.

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echamberlin8
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Re: Working with staff as SA

Postby echamberlin8 » Thu May 24, 2012 2:39 pm

holdencaulfield wrote:She said it in jest with a smile on her face. Whole point of the story: the staff is there for a reason. Build a good rapport with them and don't be afraid to ask for help.


I agree with this completely. I see lawyers here asking for help from the staff all the time, and it definitely makes things more efficient on the whole. I think it's always good to have a two-way relationship between the attorneys and staff, since we are both working on the same cases together.

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holdencaulfield
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Re: Working with staff as SA

Postby holdencaulfield » Fri May 25, 2012 2:56 pm

echamberlin8 wrote:I assume we are talking about the billing rate that the client pays. I am a project assistant, the lowest of the low in terms of paralegals. Our standard billing rate is $195, and our "specialized rate" is $210.



This seems excessive for paralegals.




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