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How to Be an Expert at Your Job and Build a Career

Posted By Allison Streepey, B.A., CRS, PLS, Friday, February 3, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, February 7, 2017

There is no such thing as instant success.  What may look effortless may actually take hours, even years, to achieve.  For example, Olympic athletes will train from the time they are small children until that moment of competition.  They will train four, eight, twelve hours a day to become elite performers. Even the day of the event will need more training for only a few minutes of competition.  The potential to win is there and the excellence of the training shows in all that they do—even the mistakes.  They are above average and their expertise shows.


The daily dedicated training is what turns your job into a career.  You must have the dedication to love it, even on the bad days.  You have to work it, develop it every day, whether you want to or not, and you need to constantly study everything about it.  Ask a million questions and make it a goal to learn every day.  You can learn from the people in your office and the clients you assist.  You can learn from the law itself and the documents you work on daily.  You can learn from your professional association.  Remember, with every profession, such as medical, legal, or competitive contracting businesses, confidentiality is of utmost importance.  No matter how great your skills are and how wonderful your customer service is, there is always room to grow and learn.  That is what makes every day so great.


This is the time of year for setting goals for all areas of your life and it is good to consider what you want to do to build your career.  Happiness is found in lifelong learning and it can make your job easier, better, and more enjoyable when you develop the skills you need.  Here is a list of ten things that can help with setting goals, improving your day-to-day life at work, and developing your expertise and career, therefore resulting in happiness:

  1. Proofreading

  2. Writing

  3. Accounting

  4. Analyzing and improving processes

  5. Reviewing the Model Rules for Professional Conduct annually

  6. Reviewing your skills annually with your attorney

  7. Volunteering to help others in your office

  8. Developing an educational plan in your office

  9. Networking with other legal professionals in your area

  10. Networking nationally through NALS


Expert skills will always be needed in any profession and these items, in particular, for legal work.  Proofreading will always be necessary and it goes hand-in-hand with good writing.  These are skills that can be developed but take a lot of practice.  To do this, read a lot and have resource books and Internet grammar sites handy for easy and quick access.  Accounting is a skill that will come in handy at work and in your home life.  All of these skills can be used for a lifetime.


Take some time to think about how you manage everyday processes.  Sometimes there is a better way to do things. A great challenge is when you have been in the office a long time and you can tell how to make a process more streamlined or how to make a checklist that will help you and a newbie in the office who works on similar cases.  When you take an idea or issue to your boss, be sure you can describe it and justify the reason for the action or the solutions to the problem.


It is a good idea to reread The Model Rules of Professional Conduct from time to time to underscore what is expected of you since those who work for attorneys are held to the same standards.  If you have any questions about the Model Rules, ask your attorney.


For your personal knowledge and résumé building, make a list of all your skills and accomplishments or build on your current résumé.  Think about what you would like to learn. Schedule a time with your attorney to review your skills and set some goals.  Feedback can be tough to take, but listen, take notes, and then work on what is suggested.  You have to know where to start.  Next year, this review will go better. 


While you are in this meeting, ask your attorney about what is expected of you with regard to helping others in the office.  If there is ever an opportunity to help someone, whether it is making coffee, making copies, typing, answering the phones, or making a courthouse run, it can be a real morale builder in the office.  The firm probably aims to work as a team and sharing the load ultimately benefits everyone. 


Maybe you have the skills and office know-how to develop some training for others in the office.  If you are not bold enough to do this on your own, work with your local NALS members to hold a continuing education event at your office that will benefit employees in your firm and other NALS members.  Of course, remember to consult with your boss and/or human resources manager before doing this.  Look for what is lacking and try to provide transferrable skills.  This, too, will benefit the whole firm.


One of the most important goals you can achieve is to build your network.  If you need a process server in another area of your state or even one for an out-of-state case, your NALS pals are readily available and just a phone call away.  Working, learning, and visiting with your local and state NALS members will prove to be priceless.  It is also important to meet legal professionals outside of NALS.  You know you cannot talk about individual cases, but you might want to share legal education opportunities.


You can be an expert at your job and build your career.  Review the list of items in this article and challenge yourself to develop what you need to make your work life easier, better, and happier.  Be glad for your job and the opportunities that it gives you.  Be glad that you are a member of a professional association that knows what you are going through on your job.  NALS is here to engage, inspire, enhance, and promote the legal profession and you.  When you commit to achieving expertise, you will reap the rewards a million times.  


Allison Streepey, B.A., PLS, CRS holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Arts and Humanities from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and graduated with honors.  She is a nationally certified Professional Legal Secretary from NALS…the association for legal professionals.  Allison holds UAMS Certifications in Grants Management and as a Research Specialist.  Currently she is the Department Business Administrator for the office of Educational Development.  She is the only person on campus who has experience in pre- and post-award grants management (CON and OED), grants administration for UAMS (ORSP), and served as an Institutional Review Board (IRB) Administrator.  Allison has been a member of NALS for ten years and has served on the NALS Editorial Board for five years.  She is grateful for her NALS Pals everywhere.

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