I’m a Survivor – Maintaining a Positive Attitude

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01Sep2013

I’m a Survivor – Maintaining a Positive Attitude

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By Alexis Kessler, Baldwin County ALP (Alabama)

We’ve all worked with that one person whose voice just makes you want to cringe when you hear them say your name, or their name comes up on your caller ID and you wonder, “Do I really have to answer it?” Of course you do. It’s what you say next that can make or break your career. Now, you’re probably thinking, “You mean day.” No, I mean career.

Take, for instance, a situation that I faced last week. One of my attorneys was preparing for a deposition that he would be taking the next day. He called me and said that he needed production from Co-Defendant A. I said, “Sure.” However, when I looked through the file, I realized that I did not have Co-Defendant A’s production. They had planned to supplement it in December only to end up being dismissed in January. Here we are in April and I needed it yesterday. Then I realized the attorney’s office and let out a huge sigh of relief. The paralegal on this case had been in a 19-day trial with me last year, and I had her cell on my speed dial. With all the favors we gave each other, I knew she would completely be able to help me. I had it in five minutes.

I’m sure you’ve had a similar situation, and, hopefully, you had a successful outcome. Although I’m sure you’ve had unsuccessful ones, as well. It’s going to happen. May it be something between you and the person on the other line or the relationship of the two attorneys, the key is to handle it with poise and grace. Trust me, they will notice it. As they say in the South, “You catch more flies with honey.”  Regardless of past interactions, remember that word of mouth is the fastest form of marketing, and you are an asset, whether you realize it or not.

As a young legal professional, we tend to want things now. Growing up in a generation of cell phones and Internet, we really don’t ever tend to stop. Why would we? We have everything we need when we need it. There isn’t anything I can’t do from my computer, from grocery shopping to scheduling a person to come out to my office and service my car. Efficiency and speed go hand in hand for us, but notice that I didn’t say accuracy. Now don’t get me wrong. You can do something quickly and correctly. I’m just saying that we tend to move faster than those  who have been doing this a lot longer than we have. However, that tends to be the nature of the beast in law firms. With the big push to “Go Green” some firms have started to acknowledge the need for larger databases and electronic storage. Add E-Discovery to the mix and everything is literally right at your fingertips.

Then there is the other side of the coin, the attorney who wants you to fax, mail, and, if they are up on the times, e-mail the same letter just to be sure that it gets there.  Then there are those who just refuse to use e-mail (and cell phones). Alabama has an electronic filing system very similar to that of Federal Court; however, in order to gain access to the documents once they are filed, you have to pay monthly dues to the hosting web site. There are those attorneys who just don’t see the need to incur additional overhead by paying for such a system. The need is that I can get it within seconds online versus having to travel all the way to the courthouse just for them to tell me I have to access a computer terminal there and print it off the same as I could have done cheaper and faster at my desk. It’s about the need to get it done and get it done NOW.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m guilty of this, too. Nothing gets me more fired up at work than having to wait on someone else to do their job so that I can do mine. I would list this “impatience” as one of my own personal weaknesses. I’ve always been the one who would panic over the small things. I can’t find it.  Where is it?  I need it.  Take, for instance, my son’s DS. It was missing for over a week. My husband’s solution was to go buy a new one. He figured it was gone and we had spent too much money on the accessories to just allow him to go without it. This is when I got the best advice ever from a woman who has been working in the legal field for over twenty years: Just relax. It will turn up. The world isn’t going to end if he doesn’t have it, and you’re not going out of town tomorrow. Give it time. You know it has to be in your house somewhere. So stepping outside of my own comfort zone, I took a deep breath and pushed it out of my mind. I would worry about it when we really needed it. Sure enough, my three-year-old decided to remember where she had been hiding it from her brother and returned it to him. Problem solved and all I had to do was be patient and ride the wave.

The same is true at the office. If you need something, stop and think about whether you really need it. Of course there are going to be times, like when you are preparing for a trial and you need to make sure the file is complete But the majority of the time, if you are looking for something, is it really something you need right this minute? Burning a bridge with someone because you feel your job is more important than theirs, which ultimately is the message you send them when you make a big deal about something that has to be done right this moment regardless of what they are working on, won’t make you any friends or spread good gossip about you. Besides, like I stated earlier, there is going to be that time when you need something today, and you are going to want to save that ace in the hole for the real emergency.

As a generation that is considered to be lost, which tends to translate into signs of disrespect and arrogance, it’s important to present a positive attitude. Get back to your roots and remember your virtues: temperance, wisdom, justice and courage. In this economy, I don’t know about you, but I’m in this for the long haul. I plan on being a survivor while keeping a positive attitude as I roll with whatever is thrown my way.

Copyright © 2013 NALS. This article was originally published on NALS website.

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