We once toiled as a “lowly” legal assistant, and therefore often had the job of handing off huge copy jobs to the copy department. When something needed to be done immediately, we begged. When something was not a rush job, we told them as much and said we would check back.
Normal, right? Normal, maybe, but not common. We saw partner after partner insist that everything was ASAP, which meant their stuff would come in and the copy guys would barely give it glance while they worked on the tasks for the people who showed a little common courtesy.
In other words, being kind is important not just because it’s the right thing to do — it’s also just self-preservation. One day you’ll need the staff members, and you’ll want them firmly on your side.
We noticed a similar nugget of insight in The New York Times’ interview with Jana Eggers, chief executive of Spreadshirt. Asked about how she hires, she said that one thing she does is find out “how [interviewees] treat the receptionist. I always get feedback from them. I’ll want to know if someone comes in and if they weren’t polite, if they didn’t say, ‘Hello,’ or ask them how they were. It’s really important to me.”
Spreadshirt is obviously not a common interview spot for lawyers, but the advice works for everyone. When you go for an interview, remember that it starts the second the elevator doors open onto the firm’s floor. The receptionist knows everyone and talks to everyone. And if you get the job and start working there he or she can give you tons of tips on partner personal preferences and firm practices.
In other words, you’ll need them. Be nice early, and maybe they’ll help you land the job.
As a side note, it sounds like Eggers could have been quite the high-billing associate if she wanted. She often sends emails at 3 a.m. while still making it to the office by 7:30 in the morning.
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