Thank you.  Anytime you hear those two words, directed towards you, it creates a distinct feeling.  We all enjoy knowing when we have helped another individual, no matter how large or small the assistance.  Lawyers and professionals are no different.  It is vital to your career and to humanity to practice gratitude, especially through your own generosity.  While the main focus of my thoughts will discuss the professional methods and reasons behind showing gratitude, don’t lose sight of the overall life obligation to strengthen other individuals.

Through the course of your professional life, you will have daily encounters with numerous individuals who are frequently referred to as “support staff.”  For our purposes, let’s expand the list to include administrative assistants, receptionists, building facilities staff, investigators, paralegals, court clerks and personnel, etc.  In other words, the list should include everyone who will greatly contribute to your success as an attorney.  These support staff individuals work just as hard or harder than you do, but often they do not receive the increased compensation or benefits you will see.  They take great pride in their work, and you must learn to include them in your success.  Most importantly, this means you should thank everyone who deserves it.  And be genuine.  Anyone will see through a self-serving “thank you” or gesture that is too public or overdone to be sincere. 

One of the best ways to express gratitude is to give support staff your full, undivided attention.  When talking with a court clerk, don’t simultaneously scan your phone.  If you need to look at your phone to view your calendar, say, “Excuse me, I don’t mean to be rude, but I need to check my calendar on my phone.”  If you are talking with your administrative assistant, don’t continue checking emails that appear on your computer screen.  Additionally, when possible, consider doing some tasks on your own.  Instead of asking a building facilities coordinator to move chairs for your meeting, do it yourself (but check with the coordinator first to avoid problems).  It probably won’t take much of your time, but it is a simple way of showing appreciation for their daily work.

Another expression of gratitude is responding promptly to any communication.  If you are asked to RSVP to an event, do so promptly.  If your RSVP status changes, notify the responsible party as soon as your situations changes.  This courtesy will go a long way in establishing your credibility as a professional.  When HR sends an email asking for updated information, try to be one of the first to respond.  If an administrative assistant contacts you to schedule a meeting, follow through quickly.  Prompt responses send the message to the recipient that you appreciate and value their work and time.  More simply, it demonstrates you care.

A few other suggestions when you are looking for ways to express gratitude or show some generosity to those who help with your professional life: offer (or simply buy) coffee/lunch, compliment a specific act to their boss or to others they respect, write a random “thank you” note, occasionally send them home early if you have such authority, compliment something specific you appreciate about them or their work, inquire about their personal lives (if they enjoy sharing), genuinely ask how their day is going, water their plants when they are absent, and be patient if you become frustrated with them.

Your practice of showing genuine gratitude and generosity will quickly be recognized around your office.  Although recognition is certainly not the goal, supervisors will take note that everyone enjoys working with you.  You will be happier, as will those who have the pleasure of working with you.