Five lessons from Suits’ Donna Paulsen

PA Lifestyle
Donna Paulsen from Suits talking to a fellow character in the TV show.


Updated May 22 2020

Sitting up there with Mad Men’s Peggy Olson and Bond’s Miss Moneypenny as one of the most iconic assistants in modern pop culture, Suits’ Donna Paulsen is a role model for many a personal assistant. Known for her unwavering loyalty, outstanding memory and exceptional problem-solving skills, there’s plenty to admire. Here are just five of the lessons we’ve learnt from her over the last seven seasons.

Always do your homework

Donna never approaches a sticky situation without being prepared. Harvey relies on her to supplement his arguments and often, it’s her knowledge that gets a case over the line. That said, homework isn’t just about a quick Google – Donna is constantly observing her environment and recognises what type of questions to ask and who to direct them to when necessary.

LESSON: Research, research, research. Before a meeting or important event, make sure you read over every email, print off any material you think you might need or even ask a colleague some questions – the more you know, the better.

Making mistakes is not the end of the world

In season 2, Donna somewhat accidentally destroys important evidence for a case against Harvey. She loses her job, endures a mock trial and (almost) ruins her relationship with her boss. However, when everything is said and done, she works incredibly hard to get back to where she was, eventually returning to her position. She remained confident in her abilities to do her job and proved her worth to the firm.

LESSON: Don’t be put off if you make a mistake. Dedicate yourself to finding a solution and don’t lose faith in your capacity to do your job – there’s a reason you’re in the role you’re in!

Don’t be afraid to hold your own

While there is value in being a ‘yes’ person, it’s not always the right solution. Donna regularly stands up for what she believes in and isn’t afraid to share her honest option. She isn’t one to agree immediately with her superior and will challenge Harvey, Mike and Louis when she believes they are making a bad decision. As a result, she is respected in the workplace for both her opinion and her knowledge.

LESSON: Have courage in your conviction and don’t be afraid to hold others accountable. If something doesn’t sit well with you, consider speaking up. This doesn’t have to be in a public place – requesting a chat with a manager could be all it takes.

Network and connect

No matter your role, a little black book is one of the most important tools in your arsenal. Between organising two tickets to the ballet and a dinner with Mikhail Baryshnikov for Louis and finding out the dirt on opposition lawyers for Harvey, there is no information Donna can’t find through her connections.

LESSON: Take every opportunity to network. You never know when that person you met six months ago could help you out.

Staying cool, calm and collected

Donna is notorious for approaching every situation with composure – nothing can ruffle her feathers. She’s able to think clearly, focus on solutions and get the job done, often before Harvey has even asked. This proactiveness and ability to stay calm in the face of adversity is what makes her perfect for the lawyers of the firm.

LESSON: If something goes wrong or you’re not sure what to do, take a second to pause. Breathe, think and then act – approaching a situation with a clear head is only going to help, not hinder!

Dreaming of being the next Donna Paulsen? Need a Donna in your life? Tiger can help!

Emily Author Emily Tiger Recruitment Team

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