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Legal Assistant's Corner: Please Respect Our Time

The average legal assistant works for two or three attorneys. Among other things, our job description includes drafting/editing/formatting/reviewing documents, obtaining records from various sources, disseminating documentation to all required parties, electronically filing documents with the court, knowing local/state/federal court rules, maintaining/organizing client files, scheduling appointments/hearings/depositions and interfacing with clients. In smaller firms, it's common that legal assistants wear additional hats such as receptionist, bookkeeper, office manager, marketing manager and countless more. Our days are spent constantly evaluating where in our priority list each new task ought to fall and accomplishing those tasks accordingly. To say we are crazy busy is a huge understatement.

Despite all of our duties, clients tend to take our time for granted in a variety of ways without realizing how disrespectful such an attitude can be. Following are my personal top five (in no particular order):

  1. Unnecessary Chatting
Clients enjoy chatting about matters unrelated to their case via email, on the phone and in person; however, we are not your friend or counselor. While some level of chatting is acceptable, even necessary, to maintain a friendly working relationship, there are many circumstances where it interferes with our job performance. Idle chatter lasting longer than a couple of minutes is a waste of our time, which we never have enough of. Asking for our advice/opinions on your personal issues and/or utilizing us as your sounding board is inappropriate. Save all that for your BFF or therapist.
  1. Being Unresponsive
When we ask you for additional information or documentation, it's because we need it to move your case forward. Forcing us to repeatedly chase you down to obtain information or documentation is frustrating and a waste of our time. The sooner you get us what we need, the sooner we can get your matter resolved.
  1. Being Unprepared and/or Disorganized
Complete any necessary forms before arriving at your appointment with us. Don't bring us boxes of paperwork that is coffee stained and disorganized. Review any documents you're coming in to sign before you arrive so you can get any revisions made or questions answered ahead of time. If a notary is needed, they will need your identification - make sure to bring it with you. Help us be more efficient - your wallet will thank you.
  1. Complaining and/or Being Rude
Don't gripe at us about your attorney, case or hearing disposition. Watch your language and tone. Don't call us and/or your attorney names. DO NOT YELL. Need I say more?
  1. Unreasonable Expectations
Yours is not the only case we are working on. We do take lunch. Calling us multiple times per day for the same reason will only infuriate us. We will call/email you back as soon as we are able to. Don't call us just before our office closes and expect us to drop everything to handle something for you - particularly if it means we will have to forego our personal plans and stay late to accomplish it.

Keep in mind that we don't like losing either - we will do our best for you. You have placed your trust in our law firm for a reason. Let us, and help us, do our job. Respect is a two-way street and a little common courtesy goes a long way. Some gratitude wouldn't hurt either.

Heather Carr is a Legal Assistant, Bookkeeper and Office/Marketing Manager with the law firm Hunt & Associates, PC in Portland, Oregon. She is experienced and proficient in the fields of civil litigation, contracts, business law, family law, elder law, probate, estate planning, personal injury, family law, real estate, and criminal defense. For additional information, please check out the company's website: []