If you think about it, what’s the underlying cause of most disputes? What’s a leading cause of failed relationships, both business and personal?
Ineffective communication. Period.
Case-in-point: How many of us have had an argument or disagreement with a significant other where, when you reconcile your differences, you each realize that the other misunderstood what you were trying to say or did not have the same key information you did to be able to draw the same conclusion?
Why can mediation, arbitration, and collaborative law be so effective? Because they bring in neutral third parties, who are not blinded by emotion, to 1) extract all that has not been communicated before, 2) help minimize emotions, and 3) present the information in a way that the receiving party understands. Even with individuals who communicate information well, when the receiver is communicating at a different level or from a different perception, misunderstandings are bound to occur.
Sound like a hopeless situation? Well, no. To start, if there were no disputes, the legal profession would be significantly smaller than it is, so consider it job security. As legal professionals, it’s our job to effectively identify pertinent facts, apply them to law, and communicate that information to help resolve our clients’ disputes. Does that mean every legal professional is the most incredible communicator across every type of situation? No. We’re all human; we all strive to communicate well and avoid disputes, but at some point and some level we fail to effectively communicate with or fully understand communications from others.
How is this relevant to working with a freelance paralegal? Quite simple, really. Simply realizing that communication is key to working successfully with a freelance paralegal puts you on the track to success. Realizing that problems may be the result of ineffective communication also has you well on your way. Why? To resolve a problem, you must first recognize it and identify its cause.
You may be used to working, and thus communicating, face-to-face with clients and colleagues. The people you work with see you in action and thereby learn your preferences and ways of communicating. When you work with a service provider, such as an accountant, printer, or freelance paralegal, it’s important to articulate your preferences, goals, and expectations to ensure the end-product is satisfactory, especially when establishing the work relationship.
For example, if work products ABC and XYZ are equivalent, but you envisioned ABC and did not communicate that information, you’re going to be dissatisfied if you receive XYZ. There are many ways to accomplish the same work product and every attorney has his or her own preferences in reaching that result. Successfully communicating those ideals will afford the desired result.
When you’re working with a freelance paralegal (or any service provider), especially in the beginning or anytime you have something out of the norm, communication is key to successful collaboration, exemplar work-product, and a long and prosperous business relationship.