Have you ever had one of those weekends where you just want to watch entertaining TV? No news, no documentaries, no dramas, just entertain me. Well, I did that one weekend, and it was the movie How to Lose a Guy in 10 days. It’s just a funny, romantic comedy.
The movie inspired me to want to do a little fun take on it and write about how to lose a paralegal job in 10 days. Now I’m assuming you probably don’t want to lose your job in 10 days, so avoid these things as a new paralegal and beyond.
If you haven’t seen the movie, here’s a quick summary. It starts with an interesting bet between Andie (Kate Hudson) and her boss at a magazine company, in which Andie is offered the opportunity to write more substantial material if she can successfully write an article about losing a guy in 10 days flat. On the other side of things, Ben (Matthew McConaughey) is a successful advertising executive seeking to land a diamond merchant client while competing with other coworkers. They cut a deal and decide that Ben can have the diamond client if he can make a woman of their choice fall in love with him in 10 days.
The woman of choice? You guessed it: Andie. The movie is about their hilarious attempts to secretly work against one another to win their respective bets. But I’ll stop there to not give anything away. If you’re looking to unwind and have a laugh after a long day, this movie is a great way to do so. I highly recommend it. On that note, let us know some of your favorite movies or binge-worthy tv that you watch after a long day at the office in the comments below. I would love to hear some suggestions.
Listen to the podcast episode
What NOT to do to
In the same spirit of trying to lose something in 10 days, when it comes to your paralegal career, I will cover what NOT to do if you want to keep your job. As someone who has managed other paralegals, not having days like these is a crucial step in showing your firm or employer that you are serious about your paralegal career. In addition to providing some amusing scenes, I will also give some actionable strategies to help you cope when days like this do happen because let’s face it: no one is perfect all the time. Okay, let’s dive in.
Day 1: Show up late
It’s your first day at your new paralegal position at the law firm you’ve always dreamed of working at.
You set your alarm for 30 minutes early because you’re so excited to start your dream job! Being the thorough paralegal that you are, you’ve already Google-mapped the route and know that it’s a 30-minute drive to the new office.
Then, 15 minutes into your drive, traffic comes to a dead stop. And it doesn’t move. When it does, it’s at a snail’s pace. You’re now 5 minutes from your start time, and Google Maps tells you you’ve got another 15 minutes. And they were right. What they failed to tell you was that the parking deck was going to be full by that time, and you have to circle up eight stories of parking before you find a spot. When you navigate all that and get to the receptionist’s desk, he’s calling the office manager to let them know that you’re there…and you’re 20 minutes late.
I’ll be honest here. From a management point of view, while being late isn’t going to cause you to lose a paralegal job, it does not bode well for you as an employee. Since the legal profession –especially litigation and real estate with their looming limitation periods and closing dates – is very time sensitive, showing your employer that you have the propensity to miss deadlines is something you want to try and avoid as much as possible.
But what can you do if you are stuck in construction or run into a situation you shouldn’t be blamed for? In these cases, the best thing you can do is communicate. If you are stuck in traffic and know you’re going to miss an important meeting, call your attorney and let them know so they can have someone sit in for you. From a management point of view, this tells your boss or attorney that you can react well in situations you did not plan for (a valuable characteristic to have) and that you are responsible enough to delegate tasks when needed.
Day 2: Leave early
It’s not so much that leaving early is a bad thing, especially if it’s because you have a doctor’s appointment or something that was already scheduled. But I would highly recommend that you look at your personal calendar for the first 10 days on the job, and if it’s just an annual checkup or a dental cleaning when you accept that new job start date, call them and reschedule those kinds of appointments so that at least they’re not in your first two weeks on a new job.
Litigation Paralegal Boot Camp
Are you still waiting for on-the-job training that takes you through each phase of a litigation case and shows you what you can do to support your attorneys?
This is what you’ve been looking for! This is the only program of its kind that provides litigation paralegals with all of the tools to master litigation cases from the complaint through the trial, and everything in between.
Day 3: Take a bunch of personal calls
And be on the phone with them when the attorney walks into your office. Several times today. There’s nothing wrong with taking a personal call at work, but when you’re on a personal call every time your attorney walks into your office, it doesn’t look good. And let’s face it, optics are important when you’re in a new job.
Day 4: Take a long lunch
You didn’t do this intentionally, of course. You meant to be back on time, but that restaurant was really busy and didn’t seat you for 30 minutes! I know – unbelievable that they would do that to you and cause you to be late coming back from lunch!
But you did have another option. Knowing you were on a waitlist at a busy restaurant, instead, you could walk out, grab a deli sandwich and head back to the office. One thing about being a paralegal is that it has a lot to do with making good judgment calls.
Day 5: Get a little too tipsy at the firm’s happy hour
You made it to Friday! Your first week is under your belt. Yay! And that’s so cool that you work at a place that encourages people to socialize in an informal setting. Not many firms still do this, but I remember when I was a litigation paralegal, our office had one once a month. They were good for morale and team-building. But they were not good if you had to watch that one person go a little too far.
So if your firm does have the occasional happy hour, have one drink. Or do what I typically do. Instead of a whole glass of wine, I’d take a 1/3 or ½ glass and fill the rest with sparkling water.
It’s your first week on the job, it’s Friday, and you get drunk at the firm’s happy hour. Let’s chalk up this first week as a disaster, but we’re still employed.
Day 6: Call in sick
It’s Monday. You have a killer headache, and you’re exhausted from being up half the night trying to relieve the pain. They gave you a ton of PTO time, so why not use it? Yes, you are entitled to use your PTO time, but is it the best judgment call to use it on Day 6, after the week you had last week, and when it’s only for a headache?
You could take some Advil, push through the tiredness and show up at work. Because after the bad judgment call of getting too tipsy at the firm’s happy hour on Friday, your boss thinks your Monday morning call-in is because you just wanted a 3-day weekend, or maybe you’re nursing a hangover.
Day 7: Make sure your boss is clear that the task is not in your job description
Your attorney knocks on your door and explains that his legal assistant is out sick today, and he needs to urgently get some things out the door to a client before tomorrow’s closing. Can you help? No, because you don’t want to be doing administrative work, so you pull out your job description that they gave you on your first day and tell the attorney to give you a sec while you scan through that list of job duties.
Here’s what I mean by this: no one wants to work with other people who are not team players. They want to know when something unexpected comes up, and you’re willing to chip in and help. In fact, it reminds me of one of the things that Kim Bookout talked about when I interviewed her for a previous blog about career mobility. In it, she gives some great advice about building relationships with others and helping others out.
Day 8: Join the gossip group
Or I should say join the Negative Nelly Club. Yeah, it takes a little while for management or the attorneys to know that you’re a member in good standing in the gossip group, but they will eventually figure it out. And probably a lot quicker than you’d expect. But you’re trying to get yourself fired in 10 days, so you’ll have to step things up a notch.
Day 9: Complain about your boss on social media
I think if you really wanted to get fired, you should do this on day one or two. This will seal the deal. I did a podcast episode on this, Don’t Let Social Media Cost You a Job. If you’re a member of a private Paralegal group on Facebook, you should listen to it.
Day 10: The truth comes out
You roll up to the office, your tenth day on the job. You head up to your desk, and before you have enough time to get your coffee, you get an urgent email from your manager. It says, “Please come to my office when you arrive this morning.” Uh oh. You look at the clock, and you’re 20 minutes late (again). You walk into their office and take a seat. You quickly scan their desk and notice a familiar document. It’s your resume. Both your attorney and the manager let you know that the cat is out of the bag. After all of the mishaps you have caused directly or indirectly in the past 10 days, they decided to review your resume for any discrepancies. After checking your background, they realized you lied on your resume. You didn’t even complete your paralegal certificate, as you stated in the education section of your resume.
Honestly, from the point of view of a previous paralegal manager, this is a situation you never, ever want to be in. While it may be tempting to slightly embellish parts of your resume to make yourself sound better, trust me. People that have been in the paralegal profession long enough can see right through your resume the moment you start working on a file. It will come to light sooner or later.
Here are some tips for turning your paralegal internship into a job offer.
Well, I hope that you enjoyed this fun paralegal spin on a hilarious rom-com movie and that you gleaned lots of helpful strategies about what NOT to do in your first 10 days on the job as a paralegal.
Avoid doing these 10 things when you first start a new paralegal job. Some of them avoid entirely if you can.
Meet the Author
Ann Pearson is the Founder of the Paralegal Boot Camp, and host of the Paralegals on Fire! Podcast Show, and passionate about promoting the paralegal profession.
Ann spent 20 years working as a paralegal manager and a litigation paralegal before opening the Paralegal Boot Camp in 2010.
Ann’s training programs focus on adding immediate value to a paralegal’s career and bridging the gap between what a paralegal learns in school and what they actually do on the job.
Visit the About Us Page to learn more about why Ann started the Paralegal Boot Camp.