I’m a 1yr associate & having trouble with a paralegal/manager. She worked for our partner for 7 yrs & helped build this successful practice. She is smart, efficient, & runs a tight shop, which is appreciated. But the problem is she treats staff horrible. She talks down to them, has literally made grown women cried( she’s probably early 30s) and is know within the firm for being mean and other unkind words (our dept is separated from all other attys). But now she’s being rude and talking cont..

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Polish off the resume and get out there. The vast majority of firm partners will keep a problematic partner around and deal with the turnover as a cost of doing business, if it means that problematic partner will still bring in the $$$$. I promise you, unless your firm is special and actually cares about culture (all say they do), nothing will change if you make a report. I speak from experience; my last firm has had a partner for 20* years who they know is awful to associates, and their efforts to mediate some of the unhappiness failed time and time again. The common denominator was the partner, but she brought in too much business for them to make meaningful changes. I hope others have more optimistic stories.

I know your situation deals with a manager/paralegal, but it’s the same concept - when they’ve decided that person is more important to the firm than associates, there’s almost nothing you can do to change that.

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I agree. You should 100% not put up with it.

Speak with the partner about it if you don't have HR.

She has more clout than you, given tenure.

Explain how it is contributing to staff turnover.

Either the partner will address it or he won't, and that is your answer. Good luck.

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The reality is that many secretaries and paralegals have a mega complex that stems directly from insecurity. They think the only thing separating you and them is a law degree, and in fact, they’d do your attorney job 10000% better if they had just gone to law school. Yet, you’re making multiple times what they’re making, you’re very young, and you’re their boss. That more often than not turns into bullying of junior associates until you inevitably surpass them someday. It’s been like this for generations. The sad thing is that they don’t even realize how close they are to being phased out of the legal profession altogether. Attitude matters. People remember.

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THIS. But my two cents: you have to nip this in the bud early. Especially as a young, female associate. At my last firm, where I started as a first year associate, I didn’t address secretaries treating me badly and the staff did not respect me. My work suffered because I was being bullied into doing administrative tasks. I lateraled as a third year and the first time a legal assistant started to talk down to me at my current firm, I addressed it directly with that person. Not in a belittling or accusatory way, and not “pulling rank,” but gently reminding her that you’re on the same team and you’re relying on her and her skillset to help you move matters forward. Infighting doesn’t accomplish that.

Yep… sounds like the secretaries at my job. Because they’ve been there longer and are older , they think it gives them the right to speak to people in any way. Smh .

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Early in my career I started as a legal assistant and worked the front desk. The paralegal at our firm had been with the partners for over a decade and it did not matter how badly she treated the rest of the admin. When it was brought to their attention they would have a “conversation” with her and it would usually result in us being treated more poorly. As someone young and working there during the pandemic, it destroyed my mental health, ambitions, and confidence in a work environment - which had never been an issue before. A group of them would bully the rest of us and nothing was ever done about it because the partners placed more value on her. She would also gate-keep the work, so if she wasn’t particularly fond of you, you wouldn’t get work. The crazy thing was is her along with the other few ladies were all in their late 40’s to mid 50’s. It felt like I was back in high school again. I got the hell out of there and never looked back.

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Ugh that’s the worst. So sorry you went through that. I just can’t help but wonder why people like this get pleasure from making others miserable. I honestly end up just praying for them because they obviously have much more going on then I do.

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I had an assistant like this when I was a first year associate in big law. When I got fed up, I gave him an assignment from a very important partner, which I knew he’d fuck up/put on the back burner—and when he did I mentioned it to the corner office
Partner I worked for. I said “we can’t work like this—if our stuff needs to get done, we need the same assistant. Get me reassigned to your secretary”—who was great. She made sure I was assigned To her assistant. The guy (my former assistant) later got fired. Bastard deserved it!

likeuplifting

ymmv but people who are territorial are often the same ones who like to play favorites. Spend some time showing her how much you value her knowledge, how much more than you she knows, etc., and you will probably make it on the good list. Staff are way easier to win over than attorneys/partners because they aren’t competing with you directly and don’t need you to make them money. Usually they just want some acknowledgment and appreciation, even the mean ones.

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Do NOT do this. She will only get off on it and take advantage of you more.

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Sometimes for the sake of coexisting it’s preferable to give them the deference / acknowledgement they clearly want and you’re unlikely to become a target. Let her know she’s really the boss around here and you’re just a cog and thanks so much but you’re just a new dumb guy and want to make sure to CYA! (more or less and preferably in person or over the phone ). Then CYA and suck it for a bit and you should be able to find a flow. (Of course if she really is a sadist you’re in a very tough position)

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Down to me now. I asked for an update regarding one of our accounts because it looked like action happened a month ago and this account should be closed. Our normal language of closing an account was not included within the files notes and I wanted to be sure that 1. Staff was aware of this case (we have high volume so it’s not unheard of things slipping through the cracks) and 2. Remove deferred actions off my list (I have a meeting with the partner at the end of day and I want to say this was completed).
I get a slightly snarling reply that she doesn’t understand why this is on my task list and there is no reason for this to be on my list. I just reply “odd, I wasn’t told anything. Thank you for the update.” Which she responses with “it’s not necessary for staff to notify you because it’s in the notes .. there is absolutely Otho g for the attorney to do if we are closing the file ..”.

I’ve been told before by the partner to never assume anything (like even if we discuss a case in detail I am not to assume he read the case) and if anyone has a question to ask him or the paralegal, especially the paralegal if it’s regarding our internal procedure.

Anyway my response of explaining I just want to make sure I don’t miss something and to be prepared for questions from the partner resulted in a very sassy response about she doesn’t understand why I’m asking these questions now, our procedure has been the same and presumably I would have asked this earlier because she’s sure I’ve seen us close accounts before.

Tbh I responded a little sassy back after that and attempted to talk to her in person but she didn’t answer her door (she said she had a call with a client). I’m just frustrated with this bs. No one deserves to be talked down to and for asking a simple clarifying question.

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