First, what do I do? I specialize in trusts and estates, which means we do estate planning (drafting wills, trusts, end of life documents, etc), and administration (trust administration, probate, after-death planning). This means I’m really good at my area of laws (trusts, estates, and to some extent, taxes) and know very little about the others.
Also, I shouldn’t have to do this, but I’m a lawyer, and we’re all about covering our asses:
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Support yo’ self!
Ha! Who am I kidding? Lawyers never support themselves. Okay, well, occasionally, but really, we’re all about the support staff. That’s the paralegals, the legal secretaries, the receptionists, the office managers. You know, the people behind the scenes who are actually the ones with power.
Let’s be honest. I would be completely lost without my support staff. I work for a small firm, and we have two attorneys, a secretary, and an office manager. I do most of the work that would be done by a paralegal at a bigger firm. But even as pared down as we are, I seriously wouldn’t be able to function without the two ladies who keep our office running.
Our secretary answers the phones and acts as guardian of the gates for us. It’s shocking how often people call and think they just get to talk to a lawyer. We’re busy people and are often working against a deadline, so to be interrupted every two minutes to go figure out some entirely different issue, would suck. It does suck. Trust me. Anyway, the secretary keeps them at bay for me and provides an assessment of whether or not it’s an issue I need to deal with and whether or not it’s worth interrupting me.
Our office manager deals with the billing. She manages the whole system, from the making sure the invoice go out (hard to run a firm without money coming in), accepting payments, paying bills, and most importantly, dealing with the annoyed people who call about their invoices. It still surprises me how many people are surprised by the fact that they pay to talk to me. If they call me, they take up my time, they get billed. Unless I’m working pro bono, or doing flat rate work, that’s how it goes. They sign fee agreements with me ahead of time that specifically state that a phone call is a minimum 0.2 hour charge. And yet they still get pissy about it.
But more importantly, our office manager has worked at our firm for 25 years. We’re in a small town and she knows most of the town. She remembers our clients, people who call, EVERYONE. I’m regularly going in to her office (or shouting around the corner), “Hey Deanne, you remember those people who were here last year and I did a will that had the weird thing with the granddaughter with the crazy name?” And she’ll be like, “Here, let me bring you that file.” She is a godsend and I seriously couldn’t function without her.
She may not have a law degree, but her level of experience means I regularly ask her for advice about situations I haven’t seen before. I’m pretty sure our office would crumble to its knees without her.
So that’s what you need to write. Not the typical boss/secretary schtick, but the power behind the throne scenario. I know attorneys who would seriously not manage to tie their shoes without their paralegal/secretary/what-have-you. Often, the support staff are the ones drafting the documents you see and the $500/hour attorney has read through it and sent it out. That hourly rate goes to pay off their school loans and feed their egos, but more credit needs to go to the ones who help make it happen.
Right. That’s about all I have to say about that: Love them, can’t live without them. Lawyers are mostly useless on their own.