Legal Recruitment from Ten-Percent Legal

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Poor working practices in law firms

Law Firms in the Stone Age

I recently coached a solicitor who was dealing with the most unbearable conditions at work, but with a familiar story to me as I have coached may others in similar circumstances.

This particular candidate works in a law firm where they have:

1) No staff perks at all.
2) No days out, meals out or any staff events.
3) No staff induction when you join the firm.
4) No words of encouragement at any time from any other member of staff during this person’s time at the firm (well over 5 years).
5) No social events at all amongst any staff whether organised by the firm or by the staff.
6) A process whereby if someone requests annual leave one of the partners grills that person to determine whether they are going for a job interview or whether they have something else planned.
7) If a complaint about someone’s behaviour is made then the person who has made the complaint is usually dismissed within 2 to 3 weeks.
8) A reasonable salary is paid in line with other firms, but the firm expects a level of billable hours that is next to impossible without working a 60 hour week.
9) An expectation that each employee will work for at least 10 hours per day and not leave the office before 7pm each evening.

This is not an LSC funded firm - ie they don't do legal aid work - which I think gives some firms an excuse of sorts for this type of behaviour when hourly rates can be £45 per hour.

Some firms make me want to tear what’s left of my hair out in frustration.

They behave as if they are feudal lords in medieval times. Some firms seem to have got very big very quickly on the back of Government and larger organisation tenders but have absolutely no idea how to treat their staff.

The partners themselves under immense pressure because of the level of tender they have pitched at and in order to achieve the levels required under the tender they have to work both themselves and their staff to the bone.

This almost inevitably results in totally unacceptable working practices where professionals are constantly criticised, put under pressure, not given any encouragement, and just expected to turn up, do their work and go home, albeit at some point in their own time because of the hours the firm expect them to put in.

Why law firms think they can get away with this I have no idea, but I see it so many times when we are pursuing bad debts with law firms who think they do not need to pay us because they are solicitors or barristers.

I do recall one infamous case we had whereby a barrister who was running a law practice put in her defence to the court which contained the mere mortal lines, "I am a barrister and if I owe money I always pay it".  Needless to say we won the case and the Judge was not too impressed.

There seems to be an attitude amongst solicitors in some areas of the country that make them believe they are above the norms in society and also beyond the reach of the law.

The behaviour being exhibited by the partner in charge of the person I coached recently is nothing short of bullying and if a client had gone to see that partner complaining of behaviour like this then no doubt he would be advising them to take a tribunal case against their employers.

There have been so many horror stories in recent times involving law firms where the partners think they are beyond the reach of the law (dismissing pregnant solicitors etc..) and in some way invincible, that it beggars belief that there hasn’t been more of a clamp down by the various regulation authorities against law firms than there has been.

Of course there are plenty of extremely good law firms who treat their employees with respect and dignity and have a good relationship with the local community.

Unfortunately there are also law firms out there who have one sole aim, which is to do the dirty on as many people as they possibly can including their own staff and make as much money as possible off the back of this.

Whilst I have no problem at all with anyone making as much money as possible (afterall why would I write this blog if it wasn’t with the intention of attracting more people into my business...), I do have a problem with companies and organisations who do it at the expense of treating others like dirt.

If you are a bully and are reading this, I hope it makes you think twice about your behaviour towards your staff in future, because it makes their life a misery and in the long term it also makes your life pretty awful as well. After all there is often a reason why bullies behave the way they do and it is usually because their own lives are pretty horrible!

Jonathan Fagan - MD of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment.

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