Looking to stand out as a paralegal working remotely?
With remote working going nowhere fast, we’ve written before on this blog about some of the challenges, especially for our young talent. If you’re settling into remote working as a paralegal, read on for our tips on how to stand out and succeed.
Make a strong first impression…from home
With over 50% of communication coming from body language cues, according to FutureLearn, interviewing remotely can feel more challenging. There are some simple things you can do to feel more confident. If you don’t have much space at home, pick up one of our Zoom backgrounds so you don’t have to worry about what’s behind you in real-life. Join the call early, so you can check that the lighting in your room works and your face is clearly visible on screen. And make sure everyone else in your house knows you are interviewing and you won’t be interrupted! Remember, even though video calls might feel intrusive on occasion, they are also a great opportunity to learn a bit more about the people you are working with and share a bit about your life, helping you to build bonds and make an impression.
Once you’re confident on video, other ways to make an impact are all the same as if you were going to a first meeting in person. Make sure you’ve:
- Done your homework and researched both the client company and the person you’re meeting
- Are prepared for some small talk as well as to talk about your achievements
- Thought about the realities of working remotely, so you can show you’re prepared
- Got your CV nearby and have rehearsed some talking points that show how your experience makes you a good fit for the work
- Prepared some questions to ask the client about their goals, business and expectations.
Prepare for a flying start in your new paralegal role
When it comes to your first week at work as a paralegal, you may need to show some initiative to make sure you have everything you need to get off to a flying start. Use our checklist of first week essentials to prepare:
- Do you know which systems you’re expected to use?
- Have you got a clear understanding of your expected working pattern, and the hours other people in the team are available?
- Do you need any training and is this booked in?
- Do you have log-ins and passwords for everything you need?
- Have you got access to the resources you need, such as templates, playbooks or intranets?
- Do you understand the deadlines for your first assignments?
- Have you been introduced to everyone you need to know in the client’s business?
- Are there any third-parties that you need to get to know, such as their customers or suppliers?
- Do you understand who you need to keep up to date with your progress?
“Turn up the volume on checking in”
Good advice from Rustum Rau, Legal Director Americas and UK at BT Global, to fellow legal leaders working through the pandemic. But it applies just as much if you’re starting out in a new role as a paralegal. You don’t have the benefit of using colleagues around you as impromptu sounding boards in the same way you do in the office. So make sure you:
- Check instructions if you’re not sure about something
- Ask for a buddy or mentor within the team who can answer questions if your regular client contact isn’t available
- Book time for regular 1:1s with your client contact
- Ask for ten minutes after meetings where you have to contribute to ask for in-the-moment feedback.
“One thing which I’ve seen in my experience is that clients love it when you take the initiative and make suggestions”, says Lachezar Petkov, paralegal and Contracts Executive at Obelisk Support. “If you’re not sure about the answer or the situation is ambiguous, spend some time thinking about the problem, propose a solution or some options, and explain your reasoning. If you can save the lawyers you are working with time, it’s always appreciated!”
Keep track of what you’re learning…and delivering
When you’re working remotely, it can feel hard to measure your progress, as you may be getting less day-to-day feedback. If you’re working on a freelance basis as a paralegal, you’ll need to record your time and what you’re delivering on your timesheets. Add to your sense of progress by also keeping track of what you’re learning in each engagement, so you can see how you are growing your skills and experience. (This will make updating your CV and future interviews easier too). As well as legal skills, think about areas such as coordinating projects, managing stakeholders, having difficult conversations, negotiating, learning about how different functions in the business work and managing risks.
If things go wrong, don’t panic
Mistakes happen. The most important thing is how you handle them. If you’re a paralegal working away from the office, it can be hard to keep a sense of perspective as you have less feedback and less opportunities to talk about your work. If you realise that you’ve made a mistake on a piece of work:
- Flag it up to your client straight away
- Be prepared to invest some of your own time in rectifying the situation
- Identify anything you can learn that will help to prevent the same error
- happening again
- Talk to a colleague or a friend about the situation and ask for their support.
Working remotely can make it easier to fall into perfectionist tendencies or even anxiety, read our article from Emilia Yau, Obelisk consultant and counsellor, to help you manage perfectionism.
Find ways to build connections remotely
Working outside the office can mean that there are less spontaneous opportunities to build connections, both in terms of meeting new people and also connecting with extra work opportunities. This means you have to be more proactive. Try some of these tips for building your profile as a paralegal while working remotely:
- When you start a role, ask the person you’re working for to introduce you via email – share a photo and a bit about your life outside work that they can include
- Ask to join team meetings with your client colleagues, even if it’s only occasionally
- Volunteer suggestions for improving the processes you work on
- Ask if you are can access company newsletters or intranets, so that you can understand the wider goals and culture of your client
- Update your LinkedIn regularly with posts relevant to the work you are doing (obviously don’t share client-specific information!).
Five easy steps to nailing remote work
#1 Become a Zoom expert (if you’re not already!)
#2 Be proactive and set yourself up for success
#3 If you don’t know, don’t be afraid to ask
#4 Keep track of your progress
#5 Build your network