29 Apr 11

Some of you likely know that Summit Law Group is a little different. I get bug-eyes from people whenever I discuss our lack of a general policy manual, our lack of dress code, our Value Adjustment Line allowing the customer to set the end price, and that minor detail of EVERY person having an outside office with no corner office real estate. Yes, these are ALL very remarkable cultural marks of Summit Law Group.

Recently, I took advantage of one more remarkable cultural marking, our pet friendly office space!

I’m sure there are many smaller firms that offer pet friendly work space, likely due to a main partner in the firm setting that rule from the get-go because of their own dog. However, I’ve never met a 30ish attorney firm who had an open policy allowing employees to bring pets to work.

So, I know, this all sounds great and fun and all, but how does it really work out?

First off, my initial concern was that even though it’s SAID that Summit is pet friendly, what’s the reception going to be like when I first bring her to work? Will relationships change? Well, although there are a few folks who have always disagreed with Summit’s pet tolerance, I’m finding 90% of people here get great joy from taking a few minutes to visit with this little love monster. It’s really helped enhance many of my office relationships, giving different angles of personal engagement and conversations that would never have otherwise come about.

So, that’s the good part…

There are some draw backs.  First and foremost, even in a pet friendly office not EVERYONE is pet friendly.  And even though they smile and say, “Oh how cute!” know that they may be complaining to someone.  I’ve been fortunate enough that I believe all the concerns have been completely legitimate and no one has complained from a point of “joy stealing”.  With that said, here are my own rules I’ve applied to allow my experience as a pet owner to be as freeing and joyful as possible:

  1. Although you might think EVERYONE wants to meet your pet and play with him/her, you shouldn’t take her EVERYWHERE in the office with you.  I’ve learned that it’s quite a distraction for people when you walk in with a Lucy in tow and try to discuss complex (or even simple) business matters.  Leaving her in my office allows me to conduct “business as usual”.
  2. Pets aren’t meant for meetings… of any sort.  For the same reason parents rarely bring their children to work, it’s a good idea to not bring your pets to business meetings.  Imagine someone bringing their child into a business meeting.  It does change the conversation dynamic and likely even the focus of the meeting.
  3. Pee pee pads are necessary, even for the most well behaved dog.  You don’t want to be THAT employee who gets the “pet friendly” title taken away because you haven’t properly trained your pet.  This can go for bathroom habits just as well as chewing habits!  I would be mortified if Lucy caused damage in my office.  Granted she’s 4 lbs of cuteness, but she COULD still cause some damage.  The Pee Pee Pad reference is a general one. Doesn’t have to only insinuate bathroom habits.  Think about making sure your pet can remain entertained in your office without having to “engage” the local fixtures.
  4. Have a backup plan! Sometimes meetings pop up unexpectedly (and by sometimes, I mean all the time), so have arrangements with others in your firm who are willing to watch your pet if an unexpected meeting should make it necessary to leave him/her for an extended period of time.  I’m not saying a 15 minute meeting.  Most pets can handle that.  But for meetings that may run longer, your pet likely isn’t really interested in spending that much time alone.  If all else fails, have a kennel either in your office or in your nearby car.  Neither of these are ideal, but will certainly due in a pinch.
  5. Not every office can be pet friendly.  Some buildings don’t allow pets at all (unless under ADA rules for service animals).  Keep this in mind for YOUR office if you’re thinking about converting to a pet friendly office OR if you’re considering moving your office.  Think your culture could be enriched by adding pets? Make that deal with your landlord even if you THINK it MIGHT be a possibility!  You can always not allow it, but if you don’t have an arrangement with the landlord, you’re sunk!
  6. The office should not be an off-leash area at any time. There are a couple good reasons for this, first, because there may be other pets in the office.  Keeping yours on the leash will prevent any potential “run ins” between them. Another reason is that no matter how well behaved your pet may be it’s VERY difficult to train the humans in the office!  So, some people will LOVE bringing your pet to their office where they have treats and kibble!  Once this starts and you let your pet off the leash OFF they go down the hall making rounds to the treat-holders society.

Those are my pieces of feedback for now. Please drop questions in the comments.  I’d love to examine any ideas you have.

If you have more interest in Lucy than in my firm you can always follow her on Facebook!

Filed under: Cultural,Legal,Management

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  • wayne butcher

    Hi  ,This invitation is a little bit out of left field but sometimes the best ones are, right?I’m writing a book (!) and I’m looking for some real-world feedback from professionals who can tell me what is important to them, just to keep the book relevant.It shows how professional services like law firms can get themselves up to speed with what is going on in the rest of the world, quickly!If you’d be happy to add some intelligent touches to what I think will be a very useful book then I would be delighted to receive your input.In return, I would be delighted to send you the first copy of the book (signed) and I would like it if I could include your name as one of the contributors (only with your express permission)Many, many thanks in advanceWayne Butcher+61 2 8006 2144

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