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8 Small habits that make a big difference in your legal support career

Law firms are highly competitive places. Anyone can succeed — so long as they’re constantly striving to be their best.

This ethos applies to you in legal support just as fiercely as it does the attorneys you work for.

If you want to stand out from your colleagues, though, you don’t have to make any grand gestures. In fact, you probably won’t have many opportunities to jump in at the critical moment to save the whole firm from disaster.

The most effective way to stand out is simply by building good daily habits.

It sounds boring, but the truth is, the difference between good and great can hinge on seemingly minor practices.

Working to level up your legal support career? Adopt these 8 habits right away:

Habit #1: Meticulous organization

In the legal support world, organization is the cornerstone of efficiency and reliability. With seemingly endless deadlines, documents, and details to keep track of, staying organized ensures that nothing falls through the cracks.

Some people seem to have a knack for organization. The rest of us need a little help to stay on top of everything. Fortunately, there are a lot of tools and techniques to help you become the ultimate organizer.

Embrace digital tools

If your firm doesn’t already use case management or document management software, you’re at a disadvantage. Advocate for this change — it will make everyone’s lives easier.

Your primary legal software is the starting point of your digital organization journey. Look for tools that can help you keep track of everything else in your day, too.

Project management software like Trello, monday, or Todoist can be an organizational game changer. Each of these systems takes a different approach — some operate with cards on a board, others are structured like calendars, checklists, or charts — so find one that feels intuitive to you.

Get in the habit of working directly from your digital tools. This next tip will help:

Take the time to plan and prioritize

Schedule at least 15 minutes every morning to determine your priorities for the day. It’s also a good idea to take a little longer at the beginning of your week to look ahead and list things that need to get done before the weekend.

Sure, your priorities might shift throughout the day, but if you start the day knowing your must-do items, you’re a lot less likely to let important things fall through the cracks.

This system also helps you set firm, polite boundaries.

When someone adds something new to your plate and wants it done right away, you can easily point to your list of priorities. Instead of always responding to a fire drill, you’re now prioritizing like a pro and working on things in the order that they need to get done.

Bust the clutter

A clutter-free environment leads to a clutter-free mind, enhancing your focus and productivity. This is actually scientifically backed — studies show that disorganized workspaces can cause emotional exhaustion and contribute to low work satisfaction.

Just like you take some time at the beginning of every week to set priorities, finish your week by clearing out both the digital and physical clutter that accumulates in your workspace.

This good habit has a built-in bonus: if you struggle to unplug from work and get real rest, the ritual of cleaning up your work area can help you mentally shut the door and step away. Recharging is an important part of your mental organization, too!

Habit 2: Effective communication

People work together best when everyone has all the information they need. Your effective communication skills keep everything flowing smoothly.

In legal support, you’re on the front lines. Everything flows through you, and you’re often the first to know about updates and changes. If your communication skills are lacking, it will be painfully obvious to everyone in the firm.

Even if you’re already pretty good at communication, don’t skip this section.

Stellar communication is so crucial for legal support that every little improvement pays off. Here are some of the ways you can upgrade your skills:

Practice active listening

In legal settings, where details matter, active listening can prevent misunderstandings and errors.

Listening actively means you are focusing all of your attention on hearing and understanding what someone is saying to you. You stop yourself from thinking about how you want to reply, analyzing what they’re saying, or letting their words trigger another chain of thought.

Once they’re done speaking and you’ve fully absorbed what was said, now you can take another second to process and respond. You might repeat back what was said to confirm that you understand, first.

This obviously isn’t how most conversations flow.

Some people will tell you to practice active listening all the time, and that’s an admirable goal. It’s just not practical for most people, especially if you work in an environment where it’s hard to get a word in edgewise.

Use your active listening skills where it matters most — with clients, in emotionally charged moments, and during any conversation that is likely to result in another to-do on your list.

Write with clarity and brevity

Legal support staff often draft communications on behalf of attorneys. It’s essential to be clear and concise.

Use plain language where possible, avoiding legal jargon unless necessary.

Written communication skills are often the hardest to master. That’s because it’s not writing that builds up your skills; it’s editing what you’ve written. Give yourself extra time to look back at your work and make edits before you send it.

Editing software like Hemingway and Grammarly are excellent tools to help refine your writing.

Respond promptly

Promptly responding to emails and calls, even if it’s to acknowledge receipt and set a timeframe for a more detailed reply, builds trust and shows professionalism.

We just discussed how important it is to set and stick to your priorities. That’s true here, too.

Habit 3: Continuous learning and adaptability

The most in-demand people in legal support are those who can help their firms navigate new technologies, trends, and changes. It’s not just about keeping up; it’s about staying ahead.

Your attitude is your starting point. Recognize that your experience is valuable both because you know how things are usually done and because you have insights into what might be done better. Stay open to new ideas.

Here are some of the ways you can stay on top of trends and opportunities.

Follow legal news

Stay informed about changes to the law and new regulations relevant to your field. Your local courts and bar associations might send out alerts, but it’s wise to use other resources, too.

Subscribing to legal newsletters or following legal blogs can be a great way to stay updated.

Want to be notified whenever anyone mentions your practice area, law firm, or a particular topic of interest? Set up a Google alert and you’ll get an email whenever someone mentions your keyword.

Participate in workshops and webinars

Regularly attending professional development courses, workshops, or webinars can broaden your knowledge and skills.

Many bar associations and professional organizations offer in-person learning opportunities, too. Face-to-face events give you a chance to network with other professionals while you hone your career skills.

As an added bonus, some of these workshops give you CLE credits.

Seek cross-training opportunities

Depth of knowledge in your specialty is necessary. Having a breadth of related skills on top of your deep expertise gives you much more security in your career.

Understanding various aspects of legal work, even if they’re outside your direct responsibilities, can make you more adaptable and valuable — especially if your department experiences a decline in workload.

You can find cross-training from peers at your law firm, in online training, and in those workshops and webinars mentioned in the section above.

Habit 4: Networking and relationship building

Networking isn’t just for finding new job opportunities; it’s about building relationships that can offer support, advice, and resources throughout your career.

Most legal professionals acknowledge that networking is simply part of the job. Here’s how to build this skill:

Engage within your firm

It’s important for you to grow connections within your firm. This is great, because connecting with your coworkers is generally easier than building relationships with folks you don’t have as many opportunities to see.

Of course, it’s wise to go out of your way to network with the people in your firm that you don’t interact with every day.

Build relationships with colleagues in different departments. Understand their roles and challenges, and offer help where you can. You’ll be able to spot a lot more opportunities when you look beyond your own daily duties.

Join professional associations

Being part of legal professional groups or associations can provide networking opportunities and help you stay connected with industry trends.

Leverage social media

Platforms like LinkedIn can be powerful tools for connecting with legal professionals worldwide.

Using social media for professional growth is a skill unto itself.

Some people invest extra time and energy into social media networking, and the results can be impressive. However, you don’t need to become a legal influencer to gain benefits from social media.

The most basic networking strategy is simply to post often, share interesting content, and interact with posts from other people in your industry.

Think of it as a way to join the conversation and introduce yourself so that later, when you need to ask for something, people in your social network recognize your name and respond.

Habit 5: Attention to detail

In legal work, a single overlooked detail can have significant repercussions. Your keen attention to detail is not just beneficial — it’s essential.

Even if you’re not naturally a detail-oriented person, you can build the skill with practice.

Double-check your work

Always take the time to review your work.

Simply re-reading to look for errors is better than nothing, but you’ll be a lot more effective if you use a checklist to catch the most important details.

Here’s a great example:

Did you know that the number 1 reason eFilings are rejected is because of clerical errors in fields like case number and party names? Right before you submit a filing, use a checklist to remind yourself to check those fields and confirm that you’re filing into the correct case.

In this example, there’s another solution available, too. You could have just used InfoTrack to auto-populate those fields for you.

And that brings us to the next tip.

Use tools to minimize errors

There are thousands of tools designed to help you keep track of details — spelling and grammar checkers, legal document templates, InfoTrack, project management platforms, and that little popup that appears when you type the word “attached” in an email that doesn’t have an attachment.

Which ones should you use?

You’re the only one who can answer that question.

Be honest with yourself: what things most often slip through the cracks?

If you struggle to keep track of important legal deadlines, use built-in calendaring tools in your case management system. Grammar checkers like Hemingway and Grammarly will make a huge difference if you need a little help writing clear, professional emails.

No matter your personal weak spot, there’s probably a tool that will help you stay on top of the details.

Habit 6: Self-care and work-life balance

Legal support roles can be demanding, often requiring long hours and dealing with high-pressure situations. The risk of burnout is real.

Self-care and maintaining a healthy work-life balance are crucial for your long-term success and well-being.

Set boundaries

Know when to step away from work. Set specific work hours and try to stick to them as much as possible.

That might mean that you don’t allow work email on your phone, or that you turn off your ringtone after 6 p.m. In more extreme cases, you might need to gently tell a coworker (or even a manager) that you’re not going to be available after-hours and they need to respect your personal time.

When you take time off, fully unplug and step away from work. Consider taking a tech detox if you have trouble getting away from the constant demands of our connected world.

Engage in relaxing activities

Find activities outside of work that help you relax and recharge, whether it’s reading, exercising, or spending time with loved ones.

Seriously, if you don’t have a hobby, it’s time to pick one up.

You need something to engage your brain outside of work. Without another interest to occupy your mind, you’ll quickly feel like all you ever do is work, sleep, and eat.

In other words, you’re living to work instead of working to live. That’s not a recipe for happiness or professional success.

Seek support when needed

Don’t hesitate to reach out for support, whether it’s talking to a supervisor about workload or seeking professional help if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Nothing is more important than your health. You wouldn’t “just push through” a fractured ankle, and you shouldn’t push yourself to keep going when you’re feeling the first symptoms of burnout, either.

Habit 7: Proactive problem solving

Here’s a tip they don’t teach in most colleges:

Being proactive in identifying and addressing potential issues makes you irreplaceable in legal support. Instead of responding to issues, you can become the person who prevents them, and that’s worth more to law firms than legal skills alone.

This habit involves thinking ahead, anticipating challenges, and taking steps to mitigate them before they become problems.

Learn from past experiences

You’ve probably seen things go wrong that could have been prevented with a little foresight.

Reflect on those experiences. What warning signs were there that people ignored? What could your firm have done differently to nip the problem in the bud before it got too big?

You don’t need to write this down or make a list of red flags for your boss to keep. Just take the time to reflect so that you can recognize potential issues before they start causing real problems.

Communicate proactively

If you do foresee a potential issue (or need to report a mistake you’ve just discovered), communicate it to the right people on your team immediately.

Talk directly to the person who is responsible for taking action and let them know what you see, why you’re concerned, and what you recommend doing about it. Stick to the facts and stay away from blame — you want to come across as concerned and helpful without anyone thinking you’re trying to make a coworker look bad.

Habit 8: Strong ethical compass

Ethics are the backbone of the legal profession.

Your professional ethics and personal values must match in order for you to thrive in your career. Know your own boundaries and be honest about whether your law firm meets your standards.

From there, you can build your reputation for ethics and integrity with these tips.

Stay informed

Regularly review your firm’s code of ethics and stay updated on industry-wide ethical standards.

It’s your job to know and comply with any relevant code of conduct.

Speak up when necessary

If you encounter unethical behavior, it’s important to report it through the appropriate channels in your organization.

Maybe something isn’t technically against the rules, but you feel that it’s awfully close to the boundary between “okay” and “unethical.”

Speak up in these situations, too.

Legal professionals should follow both the letter and the spirit of laws and ethics. Don’t go along with something that makes you uncomfortable. Express your concerns, and if a job isn’t a great moral fit for you, know that it’s okay to move on.

Consistency is key

The journey to excellence in a legal support job is paved with small, consistent habits.

These habits, though seemingly minor, accumulate to form the foundation of a highly effective and rewarding career.


  • Jennifer Anderson

    Jennifer Anderson is the founder of Attorney To Author, where she helps legal professionals bring their book projects to life. She was a California attorney for nearly two decades before becoming a freelance writer, marketing/branding consultant, ghostwriter, and writing coach. Her upcoming book, Breaking Out of Writer's Block, Exercises and inspirations for getting the words out of your head and onto the page, is due out in September 2023.

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