Paralegals or law clerks have extremely stressful jobs. Their responsibilities include anything from office management to case research, and especially drafting legal documents for attorneys to present in discovery or in court. The outcome of paralegal activity has a direct effect on how legal matters proceed.
Supporting legal professionals as they service their own clients, paralegals are faced with enormous pressure and challenging responsibilities. Sometimes, the pressure becomes all encompassing, causing some paralegals to experience such strong feelings of burnout that they consider quitting their profession.
Paralegals are essential members of any law firm
As legal practices, it’s important to support your paralegals because they really are the linchpin of your firm’s success. Managing the day to day aspects of the firm and drafting up important legal documents are among their most important responsibilities.
Ensure your firm is effective at servicing clients and boosting Legal Recurring Revenue by helping your paralegals complete their tasks with efficiency, precision and professionalism. At the same time, acknowledge that paralegals are often under enormous pressure and faced with powerful feelings of stress when completing their tasks.
Empathizing with and understanding your paralegals’ frames of mind will go a long way to avoid those feelings of burnout. When paralegals feel both appreciated and motivated, they’re willing to put in the long hours necessary to complete their jobs and support your firm.
6 common stressful paralegal challenges
So what are the most common challenges that contribute to paralegal stress, exhaustion, and burnout? Here are six of the most common paralegal pain points that legal talent should understand so that the right solutions are properly implemented.
During the discovery phase of any legal situation, new information is uncovered. Sometimes, that information directs talent to make a change in the legal strategy. However, if the direction is constantly shifting around, paralegals feel a lack of direction or hopelessness. They feel somehow stuck and incapable of satisfying their legal obligations.
Instead of creating environments where the expectations are constantly shifting around, try setting clear goals that paralegals can work towards. If the aim is to generate more revenue, encourage paralegals to focus on tasks that will drive more business for the firm. Help paralegals make the best use of their time so that they can contribute more value to the firm.
Lack of decision making authority
Since paralegals work under the direction of and at the behest of trained legal professionals, the firm’s hierarchical structure is laid bare. At the same time, a top-down managerial approach leaves paralegals feeling powerless to influence decisions that impact the future of the firm.
Rather than allow this environment to develop, change the way decisions are made at your firm. Grant paralegals the authority and influence to make decisions on how business is conducted. Help paralegals feel as if their voices are being heard so that they understand their thoughts and feelings are granted proper consideration. They’ll feel much happier and more encouraged to make effective contributions that improve business for the firm.
Negative office politics
At the height of the Great Resignation during the COVID-19 pandemic, as many as 40% of all workers said they were willing to quit their jobs for another position. Employees were not willing to return to full-time in-office work environments, and one of the main cited reasons was a disillusion with office politics.
It’s hard to say how much office politics impacts paralegals and law firms, in general. But if co-workers or managers decide to politicize work environments, it can create very toxic situations that diminish performance. Help your paralegals feel like they’ve avoided office political work traps by keeping the focus squarely on productivity. Show your entire legal team that collaborative shared efforts will help grow the firm and deliver the best service to clients.
Heavy and repetitive workloads
Among the most common paralegal tasks and responsibilities are managing clerical and administrative office work. It can be taxing, tedious, repetitive, and unfulfilling if a paralegal’s entire day is spent solely on inputting data into records, or sorting binders of files in cluttered office spaces.
By modernizing your firm’s approach to entity management, you can relieve paralegals of the tediousness of clerical work. Simplify the recordkeeping process by introducing legal entity management technology to your team’s daily operations. This will streamline clerical work, introduce more efficiencies across the firm, and help every member of the team earn back more time that they can use to contribute to the growth of the firm.
Pendulum swings between busy and inactive
If a firm is growing, there’s likely an abundance of work that needs to be done. However, during slower times, there can be very little work for paralegals to do. The inconsistency triggers stress and anxiety for different reasons. During busy times, stress is due to tight deadlines and competing priorities. Quiet periods of time leave employees feeling anxious that their job security could be at risk if things don’t turn around for the firm.
One way to help alleviate these stressful feelings is to teach paralegals how to prospect for new clients. When things are slow, your paralegal team can use their research skills to search for new potential clients that could benefit from the firm’s services. If they help land a new client, they feel very proud and accomplished. Those feelings may even trigger added incentive and motivation to complete the clerical work that comes from that new case since they feel a personal attachment to the client in question.
Feeling alone in a firm of legal talent
Finally, a lack of support, or the perceived notion that there is a lack of support can impact any employee’s productivity. Paralegals who feel as if they’re constantly at odds with their superiors may believe they’re fighting a losing battle, a one-person army with no victories to claim.
Make sure your firm’s culture is always inclusive and provides every member of the team with the resources they need to complete their jobs. No one likes to feel as if they’re adrift on their own, so make sure that your firm celebrates every member of the team and recognizes his or her contributions to support the growth of the business.
Invest in resources that support growth and reduce stress
It’s natural for anyone to feel stressed at certain times in their jobs, but there are ways to minimize those stressful episodes. Making investments in the right resources can go a long way towards helping paralegals feel more productive and more secure so that they can contribute more in the way of accomplishments.
Legal entity management software is one of the best resources to help paralegals become more efficient and more productive. Entity management software centralizes all clerical records in one centralized location, functioning as a singular source of truth that aligns every stakeholder in a given case.
Since the platform functions as the singular source of truth, paralegals can quickly review the records in the platform to exert authority when key decisions need to be made. Data is the source of facts, which helps mitigate or eliminate the potential for negative office politics.
Most importantly, entity management software streamlines clerical workflows and reduces the burden of repetitive data entry. Paralegals can earn back valuable hours in their days to help support the growing interests of the firm. It’s a faster, more efficient workflow that helps all members of the firm feel more accomplished.