What does your employer really expect from you? Judith Perkins gives us the lowdown on how to be a fantastic employee
The best compliment is for your employer to miss your presence when you are out of the office, even if you have left them with absolutely everything they need at their fingertips. Be that person who knows the file and the documents inside out.
Don’t ever turn down work. If you really are too busy to do the task, tell your employer at what point in the future you will have the time; it is up to them to decide whether it can wait or whether they have to give the task to someone else.
Everything that leaves your desk should be as perfect as if it was going straight to the client, even if it is just a draft or an internal research note. Typos and bad grammar are easily avoided, yet can create a lasting impression. Check everything twice.
Nowadays, being a good lawyer is about so much more than simply knowing the law. Learn more about your firm so you can market effectively to clients and prospective clients, get involved in firm activities, and always think wider than merely your own department.
You aren’t going to be asked to go to that all-important meeting or hearing if you aren’t giving off the correct image for the firm. Even if your diary is clear for that day, you never know when a client is going to come in with an urgent problem, so always ensure you are smart and presentable.
Look beyond the task that you are being asked to do. If you are asked to do a research note, don’t just explain what the law is, explain how that law will affect the case. Also, are there any future legal developments in the pipeline which could affect the advice you give at a later stage? Always think about taking that extra step.
Learn to recognise your own strengths and weaknesses and accept when you may need to ask for help. If there is an area where you feel you would benefit from further training, seek out an appropriate course and discuss it with your employer. They will appreciate your commitment to professional development.
Manage your employer’s expectations. Don’t ever agree to unrealistic deadlines. Your employer will be less impressed if it takes you two weeks to do something you said you would finish in one, than if you had said three weeks at the outset, then finished the task in two. Ask at the outset if a matter is urgent.
None of us like altering our plans but sometimes it has to be done. An urgent injunction may require you to down tools on everything else, including social engagements. You need to find the balance between being accommodating and being a doormat – drinks with your flatmates may well wait for another day, but that stressed out important client on the telephone might not.
If people enjoy your company and like working with you, then you will shoot straight to the top of the partners’ lists as the assistant/trainee they want to bring into their team. Don’t give off that “leave me alone” vibe even if you are having a tough day – you just might miss out on the opportunity to be involved in one of the most high profile cases your firm has seen.