You have to enable and empower people to make decisions independent of you. As I've learned, each person on a team is an extension of your leadership; if they feel empowered by you they will magnify your power to lead. ~ Tom Ridge
Robert Mongue, an attorney and assistant professor in the Legal Studies program at the University of Mississipi, is one of the newest members of the paralegal blogosphere, with his blog, The Empowered Paralegal, as well as the author of a new book with the same title published by Carolina Academic Press.
Mongue’s book, The Empowered Paralegal, is an informative read, especially for individuals new to the paralegal profession. His perspective as an attorney with 30 years of litigation experience, as well as a paralegal educator, is interesting and encouraging as he shares his recommendations for successfully navigating the day-to-day workings of private law firms. The book’s focus is on successful management of essential paralegal duties, including interacting successfully with clients and attorneys.
My favorite chapter in the book is “Managing Your Attorney” – which has greater weight coming from an experienced attorney. Mongue gives some excellent suggestions for professional interaction in a law office, even if you’re dealing with more challenging lawyer personalities, including:
- “Do not become engaged in control battles with your attorney.” This is key advice. You’re not going to emerge as a winner in a battle of wills with your supervising attorney, who will ultimately determine both your job duties and your continued employment.
- “Document clearly with friendly confirming emails your discussions with the attorney.” I sometimes work with a brilliant litigator who has a habit of forgetting who was assigned to do what as he occasionally gives rapid-fire instructions on the way through the office to other engagements in a jam-packed schedule. Instead of disputing who would do what later (or who didn’t do what later), I simply send him an email (immediately) along these lines: “Per our discussion of this morning, I will pull proposed exhibits in the Smith case for your review, as well as see if our discovery responses need to be supplemented.”
- “React unemotionally.” Mongue doesn’t specifically mention not crying, which is an involuntary reaction that many of my female colleagues complain occurs in extremely stressful or confrontational situations, but he does say “refuse to engage”. I’ll add “refuse to cry” – at least until you can be alone. I know how hard it can be not to cry in some emotionally-charged situations, but focus on maintaining as much of a professional demeanor as you can – even if the attorney is not.
So add The Empowered Paralegal, the book and the blog, to your professional paralegal reading list. Mongue is a real fan of the paralegal profession and promotes paralegals as a valued and essential part of the legal team. With his daily updates at his blog, he provides a welcome attorney perspective in the paralegal blogosphere.