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Karen R. George, FRP

By: Karen R. George, FRP

Welcome back, TPS Nation! We hope this post finds you feeling alive and fabulously refreshed on this fun and chaotic Monday! You certainly won’t find today’s topic dull. It’s another fun one from the land of “Been there, done that” or in the unfortunate event I ever end up there…”What in the world do I do?”

Without further ado, here’s Karen!

I worked for a firm in a particularly busy legal department. In fact, it was very busy. The attorneys had an average of anywhere from 300 to 600 files – each. Now, you know they weren’t “large,” complicated files, but they were files, nonetheless. The files needed to be litigated; discovery answered, organized and reviewed, hearings attended, depositions taken and sometimes, even tried. Everyone was “under the gun,” every day, all day long.

I tell you the above so that you get some idea of the environment this story stems from.

One day, one of the associates in the office; I would say about a fourth year associate, stated to his assistant, when she commented to him about an incident which had occurred the previous day between another associate and her assistant: “I don’t know what the big deal is. People should not be so thin skinned.” (Here comes my favorite part). “We are too busy to be nice to each other. We are too busy to worry about how we talk to each other. We just need to get the work done. Getting the work done is all that matters.”

Really???

Okay, now that you have the tail end, let me tell you where this charming, intelligent, professional diatribe seeped from: the day before, a notoriously “difficult” associate came out of her office, went over to her assistant and started berating her in a high tone of voice. The assistant said: “Please don’t talk to me in that tone of voice, don’t holler at me.” The associate took this request, this plea, as her cue to really show her assistant what a raised voice sounded like and replied, at the top of her voice: “I wasn’t hollering at you before, but now I am!” The assistant broke into tears and threatened to quit.

I have worked in the legal profession for a long time. I started at the very bottom and worked my way up through the ranks. During this professional “journey,” I worked for some real hum dingers. I worked for screamers, throwers, wall bangers (I’m not kidding), and much more but, I have put them out of my mind. I have had papers and files thrown at me; I have had attorneys holler at me, interrogate me, humiliate me, demoralize me and everything else they could think of. I cried – a lot – and I resented it – a lot. When I got a bit older, I learned and the next time one of these Charmers tried to flex his spleen on me, I walked into his office, closed the door and told him very calmly to never speak to me that way again. I told him that if he had a problem with something I had done, not done, should have done differently, or whatever else, he could call me in, close the door and tell me in a calm voice. If my peccadillo had been so egregious, he certainly had the option to fire me. BUT, he was to never talk to me like that again. He never did. That was the first time and I haven’t had to have that little talk with an attorney in over 12 years. Getting older is great!! I’m usually their mother’s age and they won’t dare. HA HA!

So, what are your thoughts? Is it ever so busy that it is okay to put aside our professionalism in dealing with co-workers/support personnel? Does busy give you the right to raise your voice “at” someone? Does busy mean, all holds are barred and you can put away your manners when dealing with your co-workers/support personnel?

Simply put, the answer is no; nothing gives a professional the right to put aside professionalism.

What are your thoughts TPSers? Have you ever had a “Charmer,” as Karen so eloquently (and very nicely…I might add) put it? Does being so busy ever justify tucking your manners and professionalism into your back pocket when dealing with someone in the office? Do you ever find those around you putting on those invisible, boxing gloves or verbally disrespecting those around them with an excuse of “busy”? (We’re guessing the answer is an astounding “Yes.”) If so, tell us about it!

As you enter the work week, tread those busy, legal waters with the best of ‘em and remeber to keep your manners and professionalism front and center…even if you find yourself standing before a full-on, dreaded, Paralegal Charmer! Keep it calm and professional – and if all else fails, count down the minutes until your next available break/exit from the Runaway Railroad bound for Crazy Town! 

We’ll see you soon!