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Karen R. George, FRP

By: Karen R. George, FRP

Your paralegal community is small.  I don’t care if it is New York City or Podunk, Iowa (no offence Podunk), Los Angeles, San Francisco or Monticello, Florida.  Your paralegal community is small and how you conduct yourself within your paralegal community will color everything you do as a paralegal. 

You are going to mingle with your paralegal community at seminars.  When you look for a job you will meet other paralegals. In the course of your work, you will interact with other paralegals. Even at trial you will sit at opposite tables with paralegals. You simply never know when you are going to open a door, turn a corner or just pick up the phone to call opposing counsel’s office and there is a paralegal from your community. Always conduct yourself professionally.

Paralegals talk to each other. They compare notes. They rant about problems they had with other paralegals.  If you deal with another paralegal in a case, always identify yourself as a paralegal and conduct yourself professionally. We all have to advocate for our client, but always do it professionally.    

Your paralegal community has Paralegal Associations. Maybe you aren’t a joiner or you don’t have the time to be an active member. But some of you will join and will be active members. For those of you who will take the plunge and be active members, I offer some guidance based on experience in paralegal associations and committees.

I am a member of my local paralegal association and a member of a legal support association, among other legal professional associations.  I sit on the board of each in one capacity or another. I even founded a paralegal committee at our local Bar association and chaired that with a vice chair and two secretaries. I am active in my local paralegal community and I have been for a number of years. I have gained wonderful friendships. I have learned invaluable lessons and have met people I admire and from whom I continue to learn. 

Through my involvement in my local paralegal associations and committees, I have had the opportunity to mingle with and meet many of our local attorneys, judges, court administrators and even the chief judge of our Court in social settings. I have attended many seminars and luncheons with speakers who broadened my knowledge and provided me information to tap into later when I least expected it.  Being a member of your local paralegal association can be a very rewarding experience in many different ways.

One of the things I have learned by being so involved in associations and committees, is there is always that someone — that one person who is just a malcontent, a problem, that one dissenting vote. Why that one bad apple must always be present remains a mystery to me, but I have learned they are always there. It is how I handle them that matters. I handle them professionally. 

In all you do from the moment you become a paralegal – you must conduct yourself professionally. You can’t jump across the conference table and throttle someone.  You can’t attack that thorn in your side, you can’t spew expletives, you can’t get into a banter of back-and-forth and forth-and-back. You must bite your tongue, look the other way and walk away.

I will tell you why you must make these seemingly Herculean efforts — that person will hang themselves with their own words and actions. Believe me, people are watching, taking note and writing down names. You do not want to be on that list.

So go forward new paralegals, get your jobs and join your local paralegal association and/or a national group. Become an active member and conduct yourself professionally. You will gain more knowledge and experience than you can ever imagine. You will learn to be a professional paralegal who is admired and regarded well within your local paralegal community. You will walk among your peers, head held high because you didn’t jump across the table, spew the expletives or exchange inanities with the inevitable bad apple. You rose above.

Happy Friday, TPS members! We’re so glad you stopped by today!

Have you noticed there is always one bad apple in any group you join? If so, were you able to deal with the situation as Karen suggested…or did you take another route? Do you have any additional tips to offer on the subject?  If so, please share away. It’s Friday — smiles all round!