In the final installment of our four-part series, we’re going to discuss a few creative ways in which the attorney can express his appreciation for the paralegal’s contributions to the firm.

The “Time Off” coupon is one example of this. If the paralegal has done an exceptional job, the attorney may choose to give him or her a coupon granting the paralegal a period of time off. This period of time could be a half or full day off (i.e. “Take off any Friday”, “Come in half-a-day late next Monday”). The forms are easy to make – you can find many blank coupon sheets on the internet or in an office supply store. Have the paralegal fill out the coupon with a date of his or her choosing, and bring it to you to sign off on – ahead of time. This reward is especially meaningful to working parents, who greatly value time off to run errands or spend with their families.

Office outings are another way in which the attorney can make the paralegal feel valued. Why are these outings a good idea? They inspire a sense of camaraderie among team members, and can come in many forms. In these types of situations, it’s important to plan an event that everyone can enjoy. Some group activity suggestions include an afternoon at the movies, a night of bowling, special dinners or lunches. Others could be birthday celebrations, in which a cake is bought in for the whole office to enjoy.

Retreats can fall into the “office outing” category as well. These are team building activities that take place either in- or out of the office, and can be held at a resort, hotel, or retreat center. Many law firms embark on retreats with only a few associates. We suggest taking the paralegal and other team members along and allowing them to participate in part of your retreat. This way, paralegals can be included in the firm’s team building activities and trust exercises, and have his or her thoughts and opinions heard on certain issues.

One firm we’ve worked with plans a unique office outing every year. Over the holidays, the firm partners hire a limousine and take their whole team (they are all paralegals) out to the mall for shopping. They also give each paralegal $500 each. The money is given on one condition: the paralegals must spend the money on themselves, and no one else. The partners know that as working mothers, their paralegals often choose to spend their holiday bonus on their families, so this action compels them to treat themselves. After the paralegals shop, they meet at a restaurant, then show their purchases to the rest of the team. The whole trip is a wonderful way for the partners to express their gratitude and appreciation for the paralegal’s hard work for the year and it creates an uplifting experience that the firm’s paralegals look forward to year after year.

Of course, you don’t have to throw a huge party in the paralegal’s honor to show appreciation for his or her work. However, it is important that attorneys acknowledge and appreciate the contributions of paralegals in some way. Making a paralegal feel like a valued member of the legal team will elevate his or her confidence and increase his or her loyalty to the firm. Appreciated paralegals will take pride in their efforts, knowing that their employer appreciates the work that they do.

Acknowledging the work of your paralegals may only take a minute of your time, but it will mean the world to them.

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