All posts by Heather M. Carr

About Heather M. Carr

Heather Carr is a Legal Assistant, Bookkeeper and Office/Marketing Manager with the law firm Hunt & Associates, PC in Portland, Oregon. She is experienced and proficient in the fields of civil litigation, contracts, business law, family law, elder law, probate, estate planning, personal injury, family law, real estate, and criminal defense. For additional information, please check out the company's website:

Legal Assistant’s Corner: We Don’t Know It All

I work in a small general practice law firm. Despite that description, I am not familiar with every area of law. There are dozens of areas of law, some broad in scope and others very specific. Some law firms opt to practice in limited areas of law while others, like the one I work in, practice in several areas of law. There are benefits and drawbacks to each law firm model; however, I prefer working in general practice firms because they provide diversity each day. Forrest Gump famously said, “… life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” The same is true with general practice law firms.

Unfortunately, “general practice” commonly confuses, well, just about everyone. Friends and family members ask me questions concerning all kinds of law which is all well, fine and good except when I tell them I don’t have the faintest idea because I’ve never worked in that area of law before. They are almost always dumbfounded when I don’t know anything of substance about copyrights, patents, bankruptcy or the dozens of other legal areas I’ve failed to work in (yet). Folks apparently assume and/or believe that once someone starts working in the legal field, they are automatically bestowed with knowledge of all things legal, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

In addition to failing to know everything about law, I also don’t know everything about the following legal things:

  1. All legal procedures;
  2. All Latin terms;
  3. All laws/statutes/rules/codes;
  4. All lawyers/judges;
  5. All current events concerning the legal arena; and,
  6. On and on, ad nauseam (<— see what I did there?).

While it pains me to admit it, I don’t actually know it all. Google is my bestie, yo!

© 4/24/2018 Hunt & Associates, P.C. All rights reserved.

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Legal Assistant’s Corner: We Do Know What We Know

One of the readers of my previous article commented: “While I don’t know everything, I do know what I know.” Despite my admission that legal assistants don’t know everything related to law, there are circumstances in which we do know everything.

Legal assistants are the detailers of the legal profession. We make the attorney’s vision of their solution to a client’s problem come to fruition. We get ‘er done.

Many attorneys only understand their part in the process, e.g., doling out legal advice to the client, representing the client in court, and wording documentation to best represent the client, etc.; however, they don’t always understand the details of the process such as proper formatting/dissemination of documentation, which documentation would be most efficient to serve the client’s needs, and so on.

On the flip side of this equation is the client’s misunderstanding of a legal assistant’s role in their case. Clients often only consider us obstacles by questioning us, our knowledge, and our methods – they will sometimes even flat out argue with us. We take into consideration that you’re passionate about your case and want it done how you want it done; however, what you may view as a simple straight line from A to B actually requires detours through A(1), A(2), A(3), and so on.

You have entrusted the attorney you hired to represent you to the best of their ability. The attorney has entrusted the legal assistant(s) they hired to help them accomplish their end goals. Legal assistants are constantly honing their red tape cutting skills to a fine edge and, while individual methods may vary from office to office, we all know what we are doing… at least most of the time.

© 5/17/2018 Hunt & Associates, PC. All rights reserved.

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Legal Assistant’s Corner: Safeguard Yourself Against Burnout

Being a legal assistant is a high stress position. We are the last step in a long line of steps that ensures pleadings and documents get filed and out on time to whomever they need to go. Everyone wants everything done yesterday, even if they only got their part of it to you ten minutes ago. It’s commonplace for us to take on all responsibility for a project and get it done in an unreasonably short amount of time. We, simply, are magicians; however, it sometimes comes at a steep cost.

Those of us worth our salt don’t simply do as we’re told, we also think through the entire process to make sure it goes as smoothly as possible once it leaves our hands. It is demanded of us to be all things to all people: courteous, friendly, omniscient, error-free and, most of all, F-A-S-T. With the never-ending lightening pace, it’s not uncommon for us to come in early, stay late, skip lunches and breaks, and continually accomplish the seemingly impossible. Following are five suggestions that may help you maintain your sanity:

  1. Don’t Come in Early or Stay Late

Unless it’s a true emergency, there is no reason for any of us to work more than our required scheduled hours. If it starts getting to the point where you can’t accomplish everything being thrown at you by its deadline, it’s time for you to suggest that the company hire on another assistant to help with the workload. It is not your duty to continually take on more and more responsibility until it gets to the point that you are no longer able to maintain your usual work hours. Stop being a martyr.

  1. Take Breaks and Lunches

All states require regular breaks for lunch as well as specified breaks in the morning and afternoon. It’s most important to take those breaks on extremely busy days – it helps tremendously to step away from the chaos, regroup and re-energize. While the breaks won’t keep the stress from creeping in once you’re back at your desk, at least nobody will be demanding anything of you so you can breathe easier for some portion of your day.

  1. Communicate

Make it your number one priority to keep watch over what deadlines are approaching and inform your supervisor about your needs to be able to accomplish what will need to be done. Make sure to build in a cushion for things to go wrong too. Many attorneys (and clients) only focus on when an actual deadline is and won’t account for the amount of time needed to prepare and disseminate the required documentation. It’s your job to be your own advocate so stop being shy and start speaking up!

  1. Don’t Forego Vacation Time

We all need to get away from time to time. It’s good for the soul and will reinvigorate your passion for your chosen field of work. The U.S. seems to value working over taking vacations, but it’s an incredibly shortsighted view. If all we ever do is grind and hustle, we’ll eventually have no more grind or hustle left. Every so often we need to refill our own coffers by getting off of the merry-go-round that is our daily existence. Relax. Go see people, places and things that excite you. You’ll appreciate your job and workplace more after you do.

  1. Leave Work at Work

Most importantly, donot take work home unless it’s absolutely necessary. This includes answering emails and phone calls too. There is very little that can’t wait until the next workday to be accomplished. You’ll have more energy and optimism if you let work live at work alone. Your friends and family will thank you too.

Make sure you put your most important needs first. Speak up, rest and define/maintain your boundaries. In the long run, it’s for everyone’s benefit because, when you regularly follow these steps, you’ll keep making magic happen!

© 9/25/2018 Hunt & Associates, P.C. All rights reserved.

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Legal Assistant’s Corner: I Really Do (Mostly) Love My Job

Legal assistants are notoriously stressed out and we sometimes focus too much on the negative things that rear their head throughout each day – and negative things do happen every day. On the flip side, the majority of us absolutely love what we do and have no desire to do anything else professionally.

The top reasons (in no particular order) why I love my job are:

Multitasking Mastery

Multitasking is a skill every assistant must master whether they like it or not. I generally prefer to focus solely on one single task, complete it, then move onto the next one… but being a legal assistant rarely allows that to happen. Some days when I’m forced to multitask, my brain revolts and I lash out in frustration to whomever will listen but most days I’m usually pretty proud myself that I was able to switch gears with the ease and smoothness of a racecar driver on the freeway during rush hour.

Organizing Wizardry

I tend to fall on the OCD side of the scale, so it pleases me to no end when I am able to organize all the chaos of a client’s file into a system that will make sense to anyone who touches it from then on. It’s like I can anticipate how it will be used in the future… which is because I can. *maniacal laugh*

Resounding Resourcefulness

When attorneys are faced with doing anything out of the norm, it quite often falls on our to do pile. Sometimes there is no straightforward way of completing a task and we have to figure out the mechanics to get the desired end result. Because we are constantly facing new questions that we must answer, we are forced to access our creative super powers to get the job done, son. And we always ultimately Make. It. Happen.

Cerebrally Challenging

It sounds cliché, but I live to stimulate my brain. Learning new things, conquering challenges and accomplishing mountains of tasks the faint of heart would be immediately overwhelmed by keeps me energized and excited to get to work each day. I rarely know what each professional day will hold which keeps things intriguing. I am puzzled by those of you who like to have jobs doing the same tasks day in and day out. I’d honestly be bored out of my mind. No, thank you. I’ll take what’s behind door number one, please.

Client Closure

No proper list would be complete without this on it. Helping people is the main reason those of us who work in the service industry actually chose to do so, right? While there is that, it’s actually deeper. In the legal world, we constantly interface with clients who are going through some of the worst experiences of their lives. They are scared, anxious and in dire need of our services in order for them to move onto the next phase of their lives. There is no better feeling than when we conclude a client’s case and they shower us with pure, unadulterated gratitude. Obtaining closure for a client is one of the most rewarding things we do – for both the client and for ourselves.

So, at the end of the day I basically am equal parts exhausted and exhilarated – as any job worth its salt should be. It’s tough being a superhero, but it’s also incredibly rewarding… and someone’s got to do it.

© 3/30/2018 Hunt & Associates, P.C. All rights reserved.