“Hey, I need to play a video in a hearing today. The hearing is in 20 minutes.”
Yeah, I’ve gotten that one a lot.
When you are a Litigation Support Specialist in any law office, you are going to have these moments. I have done this for over 20 years and I certainly understand the pain we must endure. My problem has always been when these “last-minute” notices come from the same people every time. My argument has always been, that you are enabling these people by responding to the lack of notice they give. If you do it, they will do it all the time.
Don’t get me wrong here. I know emergencies are part of the job. It isn’t an emergency when people always fail to plan. Most of these hearings don’t just pop up out of thin air and, usually, a hearing doesn’t just materialize in 20 minutes.
It takes a lot of patience to manage these situations. The most important thing is to never take it personally. We are here to perform a job and when they ask we are supposed to jump in and get it done. It’s not always an easy thing to manage. To be fair, issues do come up in cases that even the attorney doesn’t know ahead of time. The problem is with the repeat offenders. The best we can do is to keep communication open and continue to express the need for notice.
If something doesn’t work guess who gets the blame? Yes, you guessed it. Welcome to our world.
It always goes back to that saying: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”
So why do we have repeat offenders who fail to plan?
Planning is not a priority.
Lack of knowing how to plan.
Planning is more work.
Resistance to change.
So, how can a Litigation Support Specialist manage these moments?
Talk to the repeat offender’s supervisor. When you do this, don’t go into the conversation aggressive or offensive. Just calmly explain the issue and how important it is to have adequate time to properly prepare presentations with the equipment needed to be used in court. Don’t case a blanket over everyone. Give them the names of the offenders. Even if the supervisor does nothing about it or blows off your concern, at least you have brought it to their attention.
Have a quick-response plan. If audiovisual support is needed, have a cart or equipment ready that can be rolled into a courtroom at a moment’s notice. Have all cables and connectors on the cart. Be the professional and do the job. Never agree that this behavior is okay. Sometimes people will apologize for the notice and it’s easy to just say “It’s okay” when it’s really not.
Talk to the repeat offender directly. Explain to them calmly how better it would flow if they did a better job at giving you more notice. I try to explain the process of setting up equipment and making sure everything is working.
Say “No”. Yes I know this is a hard one because I’m sure you’re like me and you want to respond. Sometimes you need to let them learn the hard way why it is important to give you more notice. If you do this, be prepared to take some flak for it.
You want you and your firm to look good in court. Planning for contingencies is an important part of doing that. Obviously, you can’t anticipate every possible scenario. Many times I have been asked endless “what if” questions. My answer always is that we will just deal with it as it happens. Our co-workers have to understand the importance of giving adequate notice in order to have quality work. If they fail to understand that, it will eventually come back to bite them. The key for us is to just do our best in responding and confronting the issue in the appropriate way.