Love is in the air in February! Historically, I was the self-proclaimed Grinch of Valentine’s Day. The pressure, the focus on romance, the gigantic teddy bears—suffice it to say, it wasn’t for me. Then one of my friends hosted a Galentine’s Day party, and something shifted in me.
Who said that Valentine’s Day is only about romantic partners? Valentine's Day is about celebrating all types of love: your friends, family, doggo, and yes, even the love you have for your coworkers.
We do spend most of our days with our colleagues, after all. A study done by Gettysburg College showed that the average person will spend over 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime. (I feel the need to highlight that this is the average person—so I would make a large bet that many legal tech professionals spend more than that.)
The quality of the relationships we have at work can have a huge impact on our overall wellbeing. These relationships impact us psychologically: “when relationships in the workplace are characterized by cooperation, trust, and fairness, the reward center of the brain is activated, which encourages future interactions that promote employee trust, respect, and confidence, with employees believing the best in each other and inspiring each other in their performance.”
And they impact us physically: “positive social interactions impact physiological resourcefulness through immediate and enduring decreases in cardiovascular reactivity, strengthened immune responses, and healthier hormonal patterns.”
So having healthy working relationships could basically save your life, but dynamics can be difficult with high-pressure demands, deadlines, and, at times, six-plus-figure consequences on the line.
Introducing Nicole Tineo, a litigation support manager at Quinn Emanuel, who has transformed the relationship that litigation support professionals have with lawyers with her dedication to legal tech and her knack for relationship building.
Nicole is a self-proclaimed e-discovery geek; she didn’t just fall into e-discovery, she sought this profession out.
“I’ve always loved working with lawyers and supporting technology,” said Nicole. “Even when I had my mini midlife crisis and moved to the software side, I missed my attorneys and went back after two years.”
There’s hesitation that comes with using any kind of new technology. Even when I (a millennial) had to switch to a Mac operating system after working exclusively with Windows, I kept my old laptop for 2 months as a technological safety blanket. Nicole, meanwhile, works to transform attorneys’ perceptions of technology from an annoyance into a tool—which can be a tall order.
Here are her tips on how litigation support and technology enthusiasts can enable conversations that meet your not-so-tech-savvy coworkers where they are, to improve processes and perfect those collaborative relationships for the best possible results.
Tip #1: Use Direct Communication
Nicole builds the foundation of her relationships by communicating expectations up front.
“I tell the attorneys that I work with that I’m here to help them expand their practice of law and work more effectively with e-discovery tools. My goal is simple: to make them shine,” she told me.
By taking this proactive communication approach, there's no need to read between the lines on what Nicole’s trying to accomplish. Taking the guessing work out of what a litigation support professional/attorney relationship means can help both parties get right to work on building a dynamic working relationship.
Tip #2: Consistency is Key
“I always show up,” said Nicole, when asked what consistency means to her, “and I mean that both physically and being available to help, no matter my location.”
Nicole displays consistency in several ways to her attorneys. She also sends a firm-wide weekly email with tips and tricks for working in RelativityOne. She also values follow-up and follow-through as a method of touching base.
“When you consistently show up in someone’s inbox, you show that you’re always there to help,” she said. “Previously, people thought that just because I worked out of New York, I was only available to the New York office, but that’s not the case. By emailing the entire firm, I reinforce that I’m not just a resource for a certain office or time zone, but for everyone.”
Tip #3: Avoid Giving a Flat-Out No
“I’m always looking to find a solution—because I rarely, if ever, give a flat-out ‘no.’ Even if I don’t see a clear solution to a request, I’m coming up with different solutions.”
As litigation support professionals, it can be easy to adapt a habit of taking on more menial tasks or administrative work, thinking that there is where our value lives. However, Nicole urges you to have an opinion and come to the table with options and recommendations—because on the technology side, you're the subject matter expert. Attorneys and colleagues rely on you to share that expertise.
Still, it’s okay not to know the answer right away, every time: “I am immaculate with my words; it’s important to me to always be accurate,” said Nicole. If you aren’t sure what to say or do next, it’s about finding the answer to what you don’t know, and then following up—another strategy for delivering consistency.
Tip #4: Find Ways to Add Visible Value
The pendulum has officially swung since the pandemic for me, and my calendar is officially booked (not the way it was before COVID—I don’t know what that Blair was thinking with her schedule). Between balancing all the different roles in life, it feels like time has never been more limited, which is why Nicole is intentional with her interactions.
“When I’m conducting a training, I’m looking beforehand to see if we can get CLEs or RCEs,” Nicole told me. Because we all know how it is to be working toward a deadline or getting that to-do list whittled down, and the feeling of dread that settles in when we get a calendar reminder for an optional training. How easy is it to press the Dismiss button in the heat of the moment, without the right motivation to carry us through?
“I try to add value to every interaction with the attorneys I work with,” Nicole says. “That way, I can ensure that we’re getting the most out of both of our time.”
Tip #5: Spend Quality Time
We couldn’t get through a February post without bringing up one of the love languages, so we’ll go with a popular one. Over 38 percent of Americans list quality time as their top love language, topping the other four languages (physical touch, words of affirmation, acts of service, and gift giving). Attorneys are no exception to this study.
“You have to meet attorneys where they are,” Nicole says, “and sometimes that looks like spending long days at the courthouse. Other times it can look like hand-holding and clicking through different workflows, and still others, it can be as simple as a 15-minute chat as you walk around the office.”
Start Speaking Your Colleagues’ Language
The tips Nicole provides not only serve the litigation support/attorney relationship, but many other working relationships as well. Heck, I’ll even be using these tips in my marriage.
There is a theme in these different tips: “My ‘it factor’? Reliability. It builds trust,” Nicole said.
Trust is the foundation for any successful relationship.
“Building trust starts small, but builds quickly,” she continued. “You don’t get trust immediately in any relationship—you must put in the work.”
During this month of love, I invite you to look at these tips—whether you’re a litigation support professional or not—and see how you can push your work relationships to a new level of success.
Graphics for this post were created by Kael Rose.