While mistakes in the workplace occasionally happen, serious workplace blunders can cost you your job, damage your professional reputation and hinder your future employment prospects. Here are seven surefire ways to sabotage your legal career.
1. Miss A DeadlineThe legal field is extremely deadline-oriented and missing a deadline can result in losing a case – and your job. Whether you are a lawyer, paralegal, legal secretary, litigation support professional, law clerk or other legal professional, you must adhere to strict deadlines. Deadlines exist for filing motions, briefs and other legal documents with federal, state and local courts and other administrative bodies. Judges often establish strict pleadings and discovery deadlines in litigation. Non-litigation practice areas often have their own deadlines for filing with various administrative agencies and governmental bodies. Thus, it is important to maintain a fail-proof system for tracking the deadlines in a particular case or transaction.
2. Don't Work Hard
Law firm profitability is driven by the billable hour. Legal professionals must meet, and often exceed, the billable minimums set by their firm. While legal professionals working in corporations, the government and other practice environments
may not be required to bill time to a client, long hours are often necessary, especially in the midst of a transaction in busy practice areas such as mergers and acquisitions and commercial real estate.
3. Fail To Maintain a Professional ImageIn an age where workplace dress trends are leaning toward the casual, the legal field is still guided by a conservative image. If you fail to dress and act appropriately in an interview, you may sabotage your chance of landing the job. If you fail to dress appropriately at work, you lose credibility among other legal professionals. You can also be sanctioned by a judge for improper attire in the courtroom.
4. Rest on Your LaurelsIn the fast-moving legal field, you are only as good as your last project. In order to stay afloat in todays competitive legal environment, you must consistently deliver quality work product on time. In the current cost-conscious, value-driven legal industry, you must constantly raise the bar, prove your value to the firm and contribute to the bottom line.
5. Engage in Negative Gossip The old adage “lose lips sink ships” is true in the legal field. Negative talk about about your employer, co-workers, witnesses, opposing counsel or even a judge can reach the wrong ears. Legal circles are small and gossip travels quickly and can damage your professional image. Talking negatively about former employers or co-workers in interviews is also a mistake that can cost you a job offer.
6. Disclose Confidential InformationClient confidentiality is fundamental to the practice of law. Both the attorney-client privilege and a legal professional's general duty of confidentiality encourage a client’s full and frank disclosure of all facts and details of a case without fear that such information will be disclosed to others. Attorneys are not the only legal professionals bound by confidentiality rules. Paralegals, legal secretaries and other professionals handling client files must take care not to divulge confidential client information. Disclosing confidential information can be grounds for dismissal and, in some cases, deemed malpractice.
7. Fail to Embrace Technology
As legal processes become more automated, strong legal technology skills
are crucial to success. Lawyers, paralegals, legal secretaries and other legal professionals must become proficient at an ever-increasing array of word processing, spreadsheet, telecommunications, database and presentation software. E-filing (filing documents electronically with the court) has become commonplace and many courtrooms are now equipped with all the bells and whistles of an electronic age. In the corporate environment, computer programs exist for almost every corporate function, from tracking trademarks and patents to monitoring outside counsel fees.