Improve Your Work/Life Balance as a Paralegal
The New Work Environment
It is no surprise that Paralegals must work effectively and efficiently. The statement has effectively become cliché and is taken for granted by professionals who often don’t truly understand what it means. It is essentially a factor of how much time and effort it takes to accomplish tasks. Less efficient work translates into longer hours required to complete those essential tasks.
For example, according to Pearson (2021), “a paralegal working at 90% productivity who has 1,600 hours’ worth of work to do (regardless of whether or not that work is billable) will put in 1,780 hours to finish the work” (Para. 1). By way of comparison, Pearson (2021) continues, “while a paralegal working at 75% productivity with the same amount of work will have to put in 2,135 hours to finish the work” (Para. 1). In addition, legal productivity has been negatively affected by the COVID-19 crisis and will likely remain a complicating factor of concern (BLS, 2021, November 18).
The reality of dealing with the current COVID-19 and variant pandemic is that it might last for many more months and/or even years. Therefore, remote work or telecommuting has become the norm. In the near term and possibly at least for all of 2022, the days of a paralegal simply walking over to the attorney’s office for clarifications are gone and legal operations and administrative office support has had to learn how to communicate and be productive from their own homes.
This is an important consideration as paralegals will be experiencing the same significant pressures within the scope of their employment to include increasing workloads and anxiety due to telecommuting all of which have had negative impacts on mental health. As critical assets within the legal community, paralegals will still be experiencing pressures across the spectrum to include family health issues, loss of friends and colleagues, lost income, and isolation due to this pandemic. In terms of productivity then, paralegals who are working remotely will have to also include time budgeting for interruptions and familial interactions into their work/rest cycle in order to accomplish their primary tasks possibly exacerbating existing anxiety and worry.
Developing a Balance
Due to the new demands and limitations of teleworking, a paralegal’s regular workday has radically transformed. Subsequently, they have to become even more self-disciplined and establish and enforce a working area and somewhat rigid but flexible working hours within their living space to limit distractions by household responsibilities in order to overcome lapses in completing tasks potentially taking longer due to interruptions. The burden of requiring more time to complete their workload may very well translate to paralegal burnout based upon stress-related factors contributing to the feeling of overwhelming exhaustion and even new or aggravated mental health issues requiring attention from an already beleaguered counseling industry.
This in and of itself is problematic as Parker-Pope (2021, December 16) discovered that “nine out of ten therapists say the number of clients seeking care is on the rise, and most are experiencing a significant surge in calls for appointments, longer waiting lists and difficulty meeting patient demand … [and] higher demands for therapy are happening in every region and at similar rates in red and blue states” (Para. 3), requiring longer waiting periods and even the inability to find competent practitioners.
The way to work around these significant constraints is for paralegals to begin forging and maintaining strong relationships with the stakeholders of their employment be it the partners, associates and office managers of the law office and then with colleagues and peers and even clients so that should issues arise which affect the timely completion and filing of case documents, etc. the support network both internal and external to the law office can be accessed to fill in any gaps. This is especially true if the paralegal’s responsibilities revolves around sensitive government and corporate data where security is a concern.
By ensuring that a viable support network is in place the paralegal can be afforded some peace of mind and be able to better focus on the responsibilities of their respective position and thereby creating the necessary balance between professional and personal life so that neither is upset and out of sync which affects productivity and possibly mental health. It is important for paralegals to know that they valued and respected within their employ and that they have the support of their office stakeholders so they can continue their high-stress work with a feeling of assurance. The byword for each and every paralegal in 2022 must be balance and should be anticipated for and practiced by each member of the law office or legal organization to ensure that every team member is covered and protected during these unique and trying times.
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Written by Professor Jeffrey Hauck
Professor Jeffrey Hauck currently resides in Texas with his wife and family. He is serving in the U.S. Army as a Space Operations Officer for an Innovation Command providing guidance and assessments for Theater and Homeland Defense missions. His military service includes more than twenty years of experience both as a U.S. Army Non-Commissioned and Commissioned Officer employed as an Airborne Infantry Pathfinder; Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) basic branch Officer; and now a Space Operations Officer (FA-40). His law enforcement career includes fifteen years of service as a municipal police officer hired, and twice promoted, through the Civil Service Commission.
Professor Hauck retired from law enforcement at the rank of Sergeant as a platoon shift supervisor and administrator. He possesses many years of training, lecturing, & business management experience as well as more than fifteen years of experience as a Licensed Private Detective (LPD). During the years of 2006 – 2014 he was Licensed and Bonded as a Private Detective empowered to conduct private investigations throughout the entire Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the State of Alabama.
Professor Hauck is currently licensed as a Private Investigator in the State of Texas. He earned a Juris Doctor (JD) Degree and was a fellow at the Law & Government Institute earning specializations in both Administrative and Constitutional Law at Widener University School of Law. He also holds a Master of Science (MSc) degree in Criminal Justice, a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in Criminal Justice, and a Career Diploma as a Certified Legal Assistant/Paralegal. Currently, he is a Ph.D. candidate.
As a law enforcement officer Professor Hauck held certification to teach at the Police Academy Level (PA Act 120) as a Special & General law enforcement Educator/Trainer. He is credentialed as a Certified Law Enforcement Trainer (CLET), Certified Protection Officer (CPO), Certified International Investigator (CII), and Certified Instructor in the areas of academics, skills, and firearms for Pennsylvania’s Act 235, The Lethal Weapons Training Act. He has been teaching as an Adjunct Professor of Criminal Justice and Paralegal Studies in both brick and mortar and distance institutions since 2002. He is a proud member of the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), the Texas Association of Licensed Investigators (TALI), and other professional organizations.