Legal Personal Assistants are a unique group of professionals, who not only possess great knowledge and skills but are often recognised as going above and beyond to support their bosses and teams. Legal PAs are often recognised for their knowledge and specialist skills within the law firm. But more than this, they are often also seen as the problem solver, the support and the fixer. Amid all of this demanding work, it’s easy to forget about oneself and eventually burn out.
That’s why setting boundaries is not just a nice-to-have, but an absolute must. It’s the key to preserving your well-being, maintaining a healthy work-life balance, and ultimately thriving in your career.
In this article, Lewis College talks about the power of boundaries as a Legal PA and how you can set and enforce them effectively.
The importance of setting boundaries as a PA
It is not an understatement to say that Legal PAs are essential to make sure a law firm runs smoothly. They anticipate needs before they arise, and they often make the impossible happen. However, this often means they feel a lot of pressure, they hold a lot of responsibility and their fee earners often expect quick and efficient results no matter what the task.
Think of boundaries as your armour. They protect you from the demands and distractions that can quickly derail you, and they help you stay focused on what truly matters. Boundaries can take many forms: saying “no” to requests that don’t align with your goals or values, setting expectations for when and how you’ll be available, and prioritising your workload based on what’s most important.
By setting these boundaries, you’re not being selfish or unhelpful – you’re being strategic and pro-active. You’re sending a clear message to your colleagues and clients about what you’re willing and able to do, which can help prevent misunderstandings and ensure that everyone is on the same page.
How to identify the boundaries you need
To be effective boundary setters, we need to start by getting clear on what we need and value. Take a moment to reflect on your experiences as a Legal PA: when have you felt most energised and fulfilled, and when have you felt drained and discouraged? Consider the tasks that bring you joy and the ones that drain your energy and think about how you can create more of the former and less of the latter.
Once you’ve identified your priorities and pain points, it’s time to act. This is where boundaries come in. Boundaries aren’t just about saying “no” to requests or putting up walls – they’re about protecting and prioritising what matters most to you. For example, if you find that you’re frequently working late or responding to emails outside of work hours, you might need to set limits on your availability.
This isn’t about being unavailable or unhelpful – it’s about taking care of yourself so that you can show up fully when you are available. Or if you’re often asked to take on tasks that aren’t part of your job description, you might need to assertively communicate your boundaries and say “no” to those requests. By doing so, you’re not only protecting your time and energy but also setting clear expectations for what you are and aren’t responsible for.
Strategies for communicating your boundaries
Communicating boundaries is a critical skill that all personal assistants need to master. To do this effectively, you need to be clear, assertive, and respectful. Here are some strategies that can help:
Saying “no” to requests that don’t align with your job description and explaining why you can’t take them on. This isn’t about being inflexible or unhelpful – it’s about prioritising your time and energy so that you can do your best work.
Negotiating workload with your fee earner, and setting realistic expectations for what you can accomplish. This means being upfront about your capacity and seeking solutions that work for everyone.
If you work with multiple fee earners it is also important that you communicate what your other schedules and tasks look like so that they all have a good understanding of your workload.
Establishing clear boundaries around communication, such as letting colleagues know when you’re unavailable or limiting the amount of time you spend checking emails outside of work hours. This isn’t just about protecting your time – it’s also about modelling healthy communication habits that can benefit everyone on your team.
Remember that setting boundaries isn’t about being difficult or unapproachable – it’s about creating a healthier and more sustainable work environment for yourself and your colleagues. By communicating your needs clearly and respectfully, you can establish trust and build stronger relationships with the people you work with.
Tips for maintaining boundaries over time
It can be all too easy to let the demands of our work take over our lives. But setting boundaries is crucial for maintaining a healthy work-life balance and preventing burnout. Once you’ve identified your needs and priorities, the next step is to communicate your boundaries in a way that’s clear, respectful, and assertive.
Maintaining those boundaries over time is just as important. It can be challenging, especially if you’re used to saying “yes” to everything, but it’s essential for your well-being and your ability to do your job effectively in the long term.
Here are some tips for keeping your boundaries intact:
- Scheduling regular breaks throughout the day and taking time to recharge and refocus.
- Delegating tasks to others when possible and saying “no” to requests that don’t align with your priorities or goals.
- Practising self-care outside of work is essential, whether that means getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, or spending time with loved ones.
Maintaining your boundaries is an ongoing process. It’s important to be flexible and adaptable as needed and to revisit your boundaries regularly to ensure that they’re still serving your needs and goals. By prioritising your well-being and communicating your boundaries effectively, you’ll be able to do your job more effectively and sustainably over time.
How to manage boundary violations
As with any change, setting and maintaining boundaries can come with its own set of challenges. Even with the best intentions and communication, there may be times when your boundaries are ignored or violated. If this happens, it’s important to manage the situation professionally and effectively. Some steps to consider include:
- Talking to your fee earner or HR representative about the issue and explain how the boundary violation is affecting your work or well-being.
- Seeking outside support or guidance, such as talking to a therapist or a mentor who can provide perspective and advice.
- Considering re-evaluating your boundaries and whether they need to be adjusted or communicated differently.
In conclusion, setting boundaries is an essential part of creating a healthy and sustainable work-life balance as a Legal PA. By identifying your needs and priorities, communicating your boundaries effectively, and maintaining them over time, you can protect your well-being and ensure that you’re able to do your job effectively without sacrificing your own needs.
Remember that setting and maintaining boundaries is an ongoing process and that it’s okay to encounter challenges along the way. By staying committed to your goals and your well-being, you can create a work environment that supports your personal and professional growth. So go ahead and set those boundaries – you deserve it!
Lewis College, based in the UK, has been a specialist in providing PA courses for nearly 40 years, catering to students both domestically and internationally.
Their courses are fully accredited by a UK Awarding Body, and they offer continuous tutor support throughout the course.
Additionally, they provide career advice for up to two years after completion. With a unique offering of 0% finance through their partnership with Knoma, students have the option to pay later without any upfront fees.
The entire course can be completed at home, making it a 100% home study experience. Lewis College is known for its flexible studying schedules, allowing students from anywhere in the world to study at their own pace.