Monday, 8 June 2015

Being Nice

The law is a cut-throat business - well that's the impression that we all get. One that many lawyers are keen to promote. My time running a large law firm confirmed the rather macho culture - late nights and rushes to deadlines.

It doesn't have to be this way. Many late nights as a project rushes towards completion could be saved by rather longer days spent at the beginning. Of course, that's not quite so exciting. Where's the tension in saying to your team, "Well everything is in hand for tomorrow and it's almost 7pm - so let's call it a night so that we can be fresh for tomorrow"?

If you want to run your life like that then I have no problem. Barristers in particular are (usually) masters of being self employed and so are quite happy to go out for a drink at 4:30pm - or to the theatre - before returning to chambers to finish off their work.

There are, however, two problems with the last-minute approach. The first comes if you have a team. Your preference will have a huge impact on the lives of your team - so please try to think about that if a deadline is looming.

The other problem is much more serious. Last-minute-ism can drive a macho culture in which bullying comes to the fore. I have heard - far too often - phrases similar to "We're behind schedule so just get the @*%king work done!" and "Oh I'm far too busy to worry about upsetting the clerks".

That's an appalling way to work. There is always time to think about other people and to ask rather than demand - and to thank people for the work. The "work" involved in treating people well is repaid many times over. Your juniors and staff will happily work for you in a much more effective way and the office, or chambers, will be a more pleasant place to be - which in turn tends to lead to more efficiency.

So - never mind that it's the right thing to do. Be nicer to people - it's better for you in the long term.

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