…although it is not the wise that needs them!
I joined Mitchells Roberton when I was 17 just after leaving school and in 2005 I began working as a legal secretary. I was delighted when I was encouraged by the firm to progress my career in law and started studying at Strathclyde University. I obtained my qualification as a Paralegal in Residential Conveyancing in March 2009 and have been working as a paralegal with the firm ever since.
Over the years I have gained a lot of experience and I thought I might share some suggestions with newly qualified paralegals which may be of help to them. Clearly you must know the nuts and bolts of your job. You have to deal professionally and proficiently with the dynamics of day to day conveyancing transactions and be confident in your ability to do so. Keeping up to date with all changes in legislation is vital and our firm has frequent in house seminars to make sure we are up to speed. Your clients must know they are in a safe pair of hands, your hands.
However, studies have repeatedly revealed that we humans make the majority of our decisions based on emotion. If you focus 99% on the facts and give little thought to how to communicate these facts to your clients then you are only doing part of your job.
What I found out over the years is that client communication is extremely important. If you do this well you will get repeat business and recommendations and let’s face it-it is the business coming into the firm that pays the wages. My approach is to heed the following :
- On every occasion answer your client. It is paramount that you respond to clients requests for information or updates. I appreciate that if you have a heavy workload then you can be more focused on getting the work done rather than keeping the client updated but it is not a habit to get into.
- Without fail be proactive. Don’t make assumptions. If you have had no response from a client don’t presume that a certain course of action is approved. Check with the client.
- Do as you say. If you have advised a client that you will respond or provide an update within a certain time scale make sure that you do so.
- Always be translucent. This is an important lesson that I have learned over the years. You should be open if something has not gone to plan. Difficult conversations are part of business and avoiding them will not make them go away. Although a client may be upset they will appreciate your honesty. This should also apply within your own firm. It is imperative that potential mistakes or oversights are not hidden. If you think you have made a mistake tell the partner in charge of your file.
- At all times be aware of your audience. There is no “one size fits all” and you have to work out what is the best way to communicate with your client. One client may prefer face to face meetings another may prefer a written report. Some may have no idea of the legal process of buying and selling a property and need a lot of hand holding whereas some may be property developers and already know the ins and outs.
- Chose clarity every time. Make sure your client actually does understand what is going on.
Above all enjoy your job as I do mine or at least most of the time.