Looking after your mental wellbeing at work

A supplementary guide for paralegals, business support staff in the Intellectual Property profession and those who manage them

What motivates us and why it matters

By Vanessa Hammer, CITMA Paralegal, Keltie LLP

Every member of staff in a company has an important role to play in ensuring the business runs smoothly. Support staff tend to be in the background, helping to support the fee earners and contributing towards internal activities.

We all have different things which might motivate us and what motivates an attorney might well be different to what motivates a paralegal or support staff member. Some people are motivated by the need to earn money, by ambition, by the need to achieve and win approval, or by seeking intellectual stimulation. Others are motivated by values such as wanting to be part of a working community, taking pride in their work, not wanting to let others down and so on.

It is useful to be aware that people have different motivators at work and therefore may have different priorities. What might seem very important, for example, to a fee-earner, may not feel the same to a member of the support staff. It is also important to bear differences in mind and not judge everyone against what works best for you and people like you.

Certain under-represented communities might also have different motivators. It is not uncommon for certain groups to feel that they have to work extra hard in order to be recognised or taken seriously. If you are not in that position, being prepared to fully accept and understand this can increase empathy and help generate a culture where everyone is truly valued for who they are and what they can contribute.

Some common motivators for support staff

  • Enjoying the challenge of work in a highly interesting and intellectually stimulating profession.
  • Gaining a sense of purpose or direction.
  • Having stability and financial security.
  • Feeling productive and contributing in assisting attorneys with their work, being part of what makes what they do succeed.
  • Job satisfaction; learning from and helping others.
  • Opportunities for professional growth and development and learning new skills.
  • Potential career progression.
  • Work life balance; flexible work schedules that allow support staff to focus on areas in their personal life.
  • Being part of a community and work culture; working with likeminded people, as a team towards a common goal.
  • Being able to make connections.
  • Pride in working within a prestigious profession.

Some common motivators for attorneys

  • Enjoying the challenge of work in a highly interesting and intellectually stimulating profession.
  • Professional success in an extremely competitive industry.
  • Contributing to the success and growth of the company.
  • Maintaining high standards for clients.
  • High material rewards.

It is important to understand that people will be motivated differently and this can change depending on personal circumstances and life stages. For some people, career progression is very important but for others their family or home life is more important. Each will have very different workplace motivators. For those where family or home life is a priority, their motivators will probably be ones that help support their work life balance, including bringing home a pay packet.

Recognising that not everyone has the same motivation for what they do can help build empathy and understanding. It can help us respect each other for all the skills and qualities we bring to work and embrace inclusivity.

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