Byte of Prevention Blog

by Camille Stell |

Why Can’t Lawyers Say What They Mean?

Legal BlawgToronto law firm McCague Borlack is installing a fingerprint-ID program. The new system is reportedly to improve law firm security, but founding partner Howard Borlack says a “huge bonus” of the new program is that it will also help the firm keep track of workers who abuse their hours by taking lengthy lunches of up to two or three hours or otherwise failing to focus on their work. “Some people were abusing the system and others were complaining” according to Borlack.

The firm’s paralegals and lawyers are not required to use the fingerprint-ID program, only the legal secretaries. As you might imagine, emotions are running high. An anonymous blog, “Which Finger to Give to Bay Street Lawyers” voices staff complaints about the program.

Why can’t lawyers say what they mean? If the measure is to improve law firm security, it seems a key component of the system would be that everyone would have to use it. If it’s to curtail 3-hour lunches, my question is this, why can’t a lawyer say to his support staff, “Mary, I notice you are taking 3 hour lunches. That’s unacceptable. Please stop.”

But in the twenty years I’ve spent working in 4 law firms – ranging from 7 attorneys to 2000 attorneys, I notice that rarely do lawyers say what they mean when it comes to managing their law offices.

“We’re implementing a new dress code” means “one of you needs to wear longer skirts. “ “We’re abolishing the firm holiday party” means “one of you got drunk last year”. And “we’re implementing a firm wide security system” means “one of you is abusing your lunch hour privilege”.

It seems to me that we are all adults in the workplace. And that open communication should be a cornerstone of our professional relationships. I value my job and I hope my colleagues value their jobs as well. If I’m making a huge mistake, I hope you or the office manager will tell me to adjust my dress style, stop the public drunkenness or limit my lunches to an hour.

But based on my experience, that won’t happen. Instead, some company will make quite a bit of money fingerprinting all the staff members as the one rotten apple figures out a way to disarm the new system.

Source: ABA Journal

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About the Author

Camille Stell

Camille Stell is President of Lawyers Mutual Consulting and Services, offering succession planning, business development coaching, keynote presentations and more. Continue this conversation by contacting Camille at or 800.662.8843.

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