Assistant Profile – Donna Paulsen

Donna Paulsen of Suits

Donna Paulsen of Suits

Suits, now going into it’s 3rd season on the USA network, is about a high profile law firm in the big city of Manhattan. If you haven’t been watching, you will enjoy this show for the breadth of interplay the staff plays in the scheme of a professional office. It’s not your typical show about attorneys for attorneys. Everybody has a part in the success and failures of what it takes to manage a successful business.

Donna Paulsen, played by Sarah Rafferty, is spicy, direct, and knows everything about everybody. What I love about Donna is that she does not collect information to use as gossip or fodder for office conversation or gossip. She files it away in her mental file cabinet and retains the information for later use as leverage, if necessary. Which means, she maintains confidentiality in all that she does and the information she becomes privy to.

As the assistant to Harvey Specter, played by Gabriel Macht, she is loyal to a fault. And when I say to a “fault,” this is literal. Season 2, Donna decides to break the law, and knowing she would be breaking the law if she got caught, chooses to withhold (or actually destroy) a vital document that could cost Harvey his job and career. She does get found out, does lose her job, and feels that her loyalty and dedication is punished instead of rewarded.

As assistants, we are many times in a position to have to make decisions for our boss that affect their business. Loyalty and dedication can sometimes be a double-sword when your highest priority is protecting your boss. That is what we do. Probably the number one objective to our position is looking out for and protecting our boss, along with managing all that comes through their office so that (s)he can take care of business. It is our job to take care of the crazy and the details, leaving them to do business with an uncluttered mindset of what it took to get there.

Donna did get her job back, but it definitely was a lesson learned. As an assistant, it is important to know what lines to not cross. We may not always know what lines we can cross and learn to take liberties in order to get something done when the boss isn’t available. These can be helpful in thinking for your boss. This comes as you get to know your boss and their work and decision-making style. When it comes to the lines you don’t want to cross, breaking the law and business ethics carries a high price.

Another thing worth noting is we all make mistakes. In Donna’s case, she could have gone to jail, but the storyline revealed wrongdoing in the existence of the particular document in question and allows Donna to continue as Harvey’s assistant.

We also see Donna a little flawed. Which is great, because, in reality, we all are. We can be great at what we do, but sometimes we may not make the best judgment calls. And that is how we learn. Just don’t learn the same mistake over and over again. Get it and move on.


So the take away from our assistant is Donna not only knows her job very well (however, it helps that Harvey leaves his intercom on at all times permitting her to anticipate his needs before he even asks), but she makes every effort to know people, their likes, dislikes, faults, and ambitions. Therefore, she is able to achieve her objectives by tapping into these qualities that works as a win-win for both sides.

Can you relate to Donna? Are there qualities about Donna that you can implement in your own position? Leave your thoughts in the comments. Share this article with your fellow colleagues for an interesting conversation and/or debate on the realities of the administrative professional in the office.



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Founder of Administrative Sparkle at Administrative Sparkle
Layne brings a creative and artistic flair to her work, writing, and art. She grew up in Northern California and currently resides with her daughter and shepherd, Lucy, in Georgia.
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