The Paralegal has officially, unofficially graduated from her 3-year Juris Doctor program.

Released from the shackles only to have cuffed myself into a new set, the journey to the finish line is in near sight but most definitely not over. No, there still remains another 15 weeks left before I can be admitted as a lawyer, and these 15 weeks are governed by archaic by-laws of entry aptly named the Practical Legal Training (‘PLT’) program.

I will admit, the idea of having to spend another 5 full days at an institution did not thrill me.  I’d always rather be here, in the office, being able to charge myself up in varying work that I can choose when to take on independently and when to work on with some collaboration, being able to get up and take a small break, maybe even a hot chocolate run, and being able to engage in some light-hearted chit chat with my colleagues, the ones who, from me, don’t need any introduction.

But, coming out of my 5 days of face-to-face PLT training, there is something extremely valuable I learnt and something that will most definitely guide me in the rest of my career – it’s who I want to be in the context of the workplace.

I want to be a high-value adding employee.

It sounds like a broad term and its definition is entirely subjective.  A quick google search on ‘how to be a high value employee’ renders this advice:

Meeting deadlines, being on time to work, appropriate worksite behaviour, honesty, and being proactive are all behaviours that will improve your value.’

But this is not the type of high-value adding employee I want to be, I already practice most if not all of the above on a weekly basis and that makes me a good employee, worthy of being here, but does it make me a high-value adding employee?  I think that requires a lot more.

What I have realised over the 5 days is that in order to be a high-value adding employee you need to offer a niche set of skills and expertise that is relevant to the space you’re working in.  For me, this skill will be mainly focused on understanding advancing technologies in the legal space. The importance of keeping up with the rapid pace of technological advancement wasn’t only apparent in the seminars but every time I veered my attention away from the front of the class to the NEWS app on my iPad (PSA officially my favourite app on my smart devices).

Technology is creating arising concerns for privacy, data management and in the case of crypto-currencies, knowing how to read new legislatively and regulatory efforts to cover crypto instruments.

So, my goal for 2020 is to engage in more resources that will help me understand what new technology it is out there, how it is and will transform our legal space, the way we engage and how we work on a day to day basis.  The resources I plan to indulge will include journal articles, news articles, podcasts and free workshops and courses on law and tech.

By the end of it, I want to be fluent in the language of tech and in bring these skills to the tech world table.

But learning about technology and law also means playing with it, in every regard, including learning the loopholes that makes day to day activities and thought processes both organised and efficient.

Key real life anecdotal example: This one Outlook trick has quietly transformed my ability to meet deadlines.

Okay so maybe it isn’t the fanciest trick in my techy magicians hat, and maybe some or many of you are already doing this, but for those of you who sometimes feel like writing to-do lists don’t always work for you and reminders on your phone are sometimes counterproductive as you use that opportunity to check Instagram, have I got a trick for you! (Edit: not during working hours right?)

One of the great things about email platforms such as Outlook is the ease with which we can create folders under our direct inbox folder.  I have about 10 folders, creatively titled, that have helped a great deal in organising emails, retracing steps, communicating with the right people and shortening particular processes such as digging for email precedents and templates.

But my favourite, most ‘cannot live without’ folder has to be the newcomer to the bunch, my ‘Due this Week’ folder.   Simple, yet effective, I drag any emails that require any action which is due that week to my ‘Due this Week’ folder and I put it on unread.

With this method, my ‘Due this Week’ highlights not only what I have due, but how many things I have due and I don’t have to be in the folder itself to know that.  It sits directly under my main inbox folder and is a great prompt for me to check off and move out the work I have completed, re-read over the work I have lingering, and figure out when I have reached capacity when the number becomes too high all without being overwhelmed.

By Friday afternoon my ‘Due this Week’ folder should be empty, if not lingering with one or two tasks that have been renegotiated to be due next week.

Gone are the written to-do lists which often get lost or become too messy as tasks shuffle around, gone are the reminders which fail to give me the bigger picture of exactly how much more work I have left or what my work entails.

Told you it was a simple trick, almost too obvious that I’m hitting myself that it took me approximately 2 years and 7 months to figure out this savvy tool.

Thank goodness for technology and here’s to 2020, the year to seek and learn more about our fickle friend.