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In This Field, Boss Should Sweat the Small Stuff

By Lily Garcia
Special to washingtonpost.com
Wednesday, January 2, 2008 4:55 PM

I work in a personal injury/workers' comp law firm and I am ready to quit! Here's why ( I am going to try to keep this short): I work for an attorney who only thinks about "money" (what attorney doesn't huh?). There are certain tasks that are given to the receptionist/assistant to complete, but they are completed incorrectly, then it falls on me. Example: A disability slip needs to be sent to an adjuster for a client. However, the disability slip is sent to the personal injury adjuster and not the workers' comp adjuster. Problem there? The client doesn't get paid for being off work, and who do they call? ME... and the attorney is yelling at me.

Another example: A notice of an appointment is sent to an assistant to send to a client. She sends the letter out but doesn't make a copy of the letter and misplaces the notice. I have to call the insurance company and tell them that I lost it, when I haven't even seen it! What's up with that? Nothing is in order in the attorney's files and unfortunately I am not the only person handling the files... cases have misspellings, wrong information, etc. I could go on and on.

My messages aren't coming through to me; the receptionist thinks she is a paralegal and wants to "help" the clients who are calling by answering their questions. My boss tells me that I micromanage and I'm perfect. No! I don't think I'm perfect... far from it. I am very organized and was trained differently. I was trained to do things right the first time, because if I don't it makes the attorney look bad. What can I do? I am very upset because my boss thinks that I'm just nit-picking and micromanaging. Am I thinking of leaving for the wrong reasons? Please help me!

If you are a perfectionist, or even a bit of a micromanager, you are fundamentally well-suited to the work of a paralegal. The greatest attorneys know that creativity should never be tolerated in the organization and management of legal case files. Such lawyers come to rely heavily on people such as you to be uptight about the details so that they can concentrate on formulating legal arguments and building client relationships.

It sounds to me like you are working for an attorney who does not appreciate the immeasurable value of your qualities. He has somehow been able to get by so far without sweating the small, yet significant, errors that you have described. Until one of these peccadilloes leads to the loss of a major case or exposure to legal malpractice liability, he will probably continue to believe that you are being too anal.

In short, you are not thinking of leaving for the wrong reasons. You and your employer have fundamental philosophical differences about what matters and how the work should get done. Unlike Sisyphus, you luckily have a choice.

Join Lily Garcia on Tuesday, Jan. 8 at 11 a.m. ET for How to Deal Live.

Lily Garcia has offered employment law and human resources advice to companies of all sizes for 10 years. To submit a question, e-mail hradvice@washingtonpost.com. We reserve the right to edit submitted questions for length and clarity and cannot guarantee that all questions will be answered. The information contained in this column is not intended to be legal advice.

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