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Jennifer MacDonnell

By: Jennifer MacDonnell

You are giddy.  Your adrenaline is pumping with anticipation.  In that exact moment, you have never wanted an opportunity so badly.  After endless months of searching, faulty interviews, and crushing let-downs, you finally hear those sweet sounding words, “You’re hired!”  No, this isn’t the season finale of “The Apprentice.”  This is reality. 

As you firmly shake the attorney’s hand, agreeing to accept your very first paralegal position, a sense of sheer panic starts to set in.  Yes, you have conquered the endless interview questions, but now there are two more things left to do.  Show up for work and keep your job.

The first day of work is nothing to fear!  Just remember, the attorney hired you for a reason.  However, just because your initial first impression satisfied the supervising attorney, you must remember there are unwritten rules that must be followed.  Following a few office survival basics for the new paralegal will allow you to maintain a great first impression and help to secure your future at the firm.

Reliability:  Don’t arrive on time — arrive early.  If you make the attorney question your attendance, you will quickly see the reputation you defended during the interview process become a questionable lie.  You should consistently arrive 15 minutes early every day and back up your reputation of being a reliable employee.   

Professionalism Wondering what to wear to work shouldn’t push you into the latest Kardashian fashion or Emo pencil pants.  Even if the office permits “casual days,” remember you will never get a second chance to make a first impression with prospective clients and co-workers.  Perception is in the eye of the beholder, so rock your big-girl or big-boy suit proudly!    

Maturity Silence the geek in you.  Really people… leave all your electronic devices that text, tweet and beep on silent.  Also, just because they let you use a computer, with internet access, does not give you a free ticket to cyber space.  If you want to be considered a mature adult, then don’t text, send personal e-mails, or internet surf while at work.

Confidentiality You did not get the job because you are a professional gossip.  In fact, be very cautious of individuals who unload their office baggage while prompting for your opinion.  You do not what your reputation associated with gossips, especially if those individuals are involuntarily on their way out the door. 

Discretion If you are successful you do not have to brag or act like a know-it-all.  It does not matter what you have accomplished in the past, unless you can replicate that performance just as well now.  Instead of insisting on being in the limelight, just listen your way to success.     

Team Player Attitudes can be taken at face value, literally.  You may think that no one saw you roll your eyes at your co-worker’s latest idea or at the comment about your boss, but someone did.  This can hurt your reputation just as fast as spoken words.  By consistently having a positive attitude in awkward or difficult situations, you will set the example of a valuable team player.

Time Management The one-million dollar question is only for TV audiences.  The last thing you want to do is walk into the attorney’s office every single time you have a question.  If the attorney has given you multiple projects, review all of them and write down all your questions.  You may find some of the questions you had were solved by simply taking the time to review the material.  In turn, you will feel accomplished and the attorney will appreciate your ability to problem-solve on your own.  

Dedication:  Finishing the race on time does not make you the winner.  It is not uncommon for employees to consider staying late at work to be a form of torture.  Often, the most valuable lessons can be learned if you stay a little later.  Last minute projects are getting finished, delegated, and explained.  Do not miss out on the opportunity to learn something new and also be viewed as a dedicated employee.    

Don’t let the thought of showing up for your first day of work launch you into a full-blown panic attack!  Remember — the attorney does not expect you to solve the world’s problems on your first day.  Simply follow these unwritten rules and you’ll maintain a great first impression, secure your future with the law firm, and maybe even make a few friends along the way!