When I was a young lawyer, I worked at a law firm in Yorkville that had 2 dogs and a cat.
I had never worked in any office environment that had any sort of animal. Having a dog, or a cat, let alone multiple animals in a law office, seemed very strange to me. When I thought about the idea of a traditional law firm, the image of a dog or a cat in the office never came to mind.
The previous law firms I worked at were in large office towers; on Bay Street in Downtown Toronto. There were no animals allowed in those office towers. Even if there were animals allowed, the financial district was not the ideal place to walk a dog. Taking the dog in a business elevator with all of those white collar executives wasn’t the right fit. Nor was going outside of your tower multiple times per day to get the dog some fresh air.
But I was not working at a traditional law firm. I was working at a personal injury law firm. And the thing about personal injury law, is…well…you guessed it…It’s rather personal.
Personal injury law firms do not represent large institutional clients like multi billion dollar, multi national corporations. Personal injury law firms represent everyday people, like you and me. So, the idea of having an office dog, was not so far fetched.
I’ve loved dogs all of my life. But, not to the point that I felt the urge to take my pet to work.
So what was it like having a dog (or two), along with a cat in the workplace?
I can tell you that there was nothing better for office morale than having a dog (or a cat) around.
The staff loved it. Even staff which didn’t like pets, quickly got used to having a pet around. On a gloomy day, the dogs were instant rays of sunshine to brighten one’s day. When you were working hard, long hours at the office, the dogs had a great way of recharging your battery; or resetting your mindset.
The dogs were also reminders to take a break. Whether it was to feed the dogs, change their water, pet them, or take them out for a quick walk. The dogs gave the lawyers and staff a much needed and well deserved break from what can be mundane legal work.
These mini breaks are important. Lawyers, and staff work more productively when they take little breaks throughout the day to recharge their batteries. Staring at a screen, or at a legal document all day without break won’t keep your mind sharp or fresh.
Dare I say that the staff and lawyers were more eager to come in to work, and more keen to stick around the office a little bit longer with a dog around. It’s true, because I saw it with my own eyes.
All in all, the dogs made the office a much more pleasant environment. It relaxed people and put them at ease.
It acted as a form of cheap security. Knock at the door? Bark! Bark!
Strange person creeping out the office? There was a dog to make them second guess their next move.
This is a picture of Charlie, the office dog at Goldfinger Injury Lawyers:
I’ve just focused on then impact of having a dog on the staff and lawyers. You can imagine the positive impact that it had on clients.
Once clients found out there was an office dog, they wanted to come in the office more frequently to say hello. It was just an excuse to see the dog!
The dog put clients at ease. It calmed their nerves of having to walk into a law firm and speak with their personal injury lawyer. It made the experience less intimidating. It normalized what could otherwise be a scaring meeting.
Having a friendly dog is like having a great welcoming party. Who doesn’t like a cute dog, wagging its tail at you to say hello as a form of greeting at a law firm? It makes for a pleasant, welcoming and humane experience.
Having a dog also humanizes our personal injury lawyers and staff. It’s a reminder to our clients that even though we are “lawyers“, we are people first. Hard to believe that a lawyer can be a “person“, but it’s true.
If we had an office cat, this is what I would want it to look like:
The final point I wish to address is the long lasting impact of the Pandemic, both on work routines, and depression. Having a pet at the office makes everyone happy. It’s the truth. Don’t believe me? Give it a try! The office pet encourages people to come in to the office to see the pet and care for it. If they don’t like their work colleagues, at least they like the office pet. I mean, who hates the office pet?
More and more proceedings are taking place virtually. That means that lawyers get out of the office (or their homes) much less. That’s not such a bad thing. But if lawyers, and staff, are routinely coming in to the office more; but getting out to in person discoveries, mediation and Court less because they are all taking place virtually; what can break the monotony of the office and brighten the mood? An office pet.
Our law firm is very fortunate to have the luxury of having an office pet. Many workplaces won’t allow them. It comes with great responsibility. Some clients are too fond of animals. For some clients; particularly dog bite clients, they remain afraid of animals so having the office dog around for the meeting might not be the best idea. But the list of cons is rather short and is heavily outweighed by the list or pros. Office morale is a delicate thing, that can’t be manufactured. It has to be authentic. There is no doubt in my mind that having an office pet goes a long way towards establishing a positive office culture and work environment. I’ve never seen a bad office culture which had an office dog.