• Elaine Burger-Pienaar

Pets and Professional Development

Our Pick of the Month from the latest Practice Management Alert.

Two years into the Pandemic, it is still interesting to learn more about which tendencies and trends are emerging in the way professionals are choosing to work. We enjoy sharing intriguing updates in the global legal industry in our monthly Practice Management Alert e-newsletter.


Danielle Braff from ABA Journal writes that 'One side effect of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is that lots of people have adopted pets. Turns out, a lot of these pet parents enjoyed spending time at home with their furry friends—some so much so that they refused to be separated from their best buddies. In fact, 75% of U.S.-based remote workers surveyed in July by Digital.com, wanted to stay remote so they could take care of their pets', in her article Some lawyers are reluctant to return to the office and leave their pets. This is occurring even if it negatively affects their career, for example declining work travel opportunities and not attending official events. Braff found that 'attorneys are no different'. It's natural to wonder why they would be willing to make these sacrifices, and the response is "(The dog) is my stress buster, my gym and my comfort".

"Some law offices are even starting to accept animals in the office. In 2019, according to the Society of Human Resource Management, 11% of employers allow pets to come to the office. There isn’t a specific study of how many law firms [in the US] are allowing pets into the office, but anecdotal evidence shows they, too, are becoming more welcoming to furry friends." Some attorneys are trying to prove that having pets in the office is a boost to overall morale. Kris Parker is an attorney in Florida, who takes his 12 year old Boston Terrier, Dunkin, to work. Kris says “Law offices and legal matters can be intimidating, and Dunkin takes some of that edge off for most of our clients. If he were not permitted in our office, I would probably look into working somewhere he is welcome.”'

Read the full article here.

Professional Development

In this age of high competition and stress levels in the world of work, investing in your personal development and wellbeing (for example with life coaching or yoga) is becoming as important as sharpening up your professional toolkit with formal Skills Development. Both equip us with tactics and coping mechanisms to reach our potential and excel, whilst avoiding burnout.

The Impact Lawyers article 3 Small changes you can make to improve your workday provides practical tips on enhancing your professional day. They recommend:

  1. "Starting your day with positivity. Reset your compass by taking up a practice of gratitude, by listing 3 things you are grateful for every day. These can be the simplest of things. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.

  2. Plan your day, but don’t overbook yourself. Elevate your to-do list by adding in planned breaks between your focus tasks.

  3. Make time for curiosity. Curious people tend to come up with more creative solutions in the workplace. The research shows that piquing people’s curiosity can influence their choices by steering them away from tempting desires, like unhealthy foods or taking the elevator, and toward less tempting, but healthier options, such as buying more fresh produce or taking the stairs. So make a conscious effort to explore, research, and think."

Fiona Callanan-Thorsby (The Impact lawyers) has written an article titled Three ways that teaching yoga has helped me become a better lawyer. What stood out to us was "that what mattered the most was whether we use this [yoga] training to continue to learn and grow as students and teachers of yoga, to build on our skills to self-regulate, and to see ourselves and others with more clarity, empathy, and compassion. I’m better at connecting with people. I manage my anxiety better, and in the process I do my best to really listen to my stakeholders and give them the time and space they need to come to their own conclusions about the matters we’re working on together. I breathe. It has been scientifically proven that breathing with consistent, even tempos can improve your health by keeping your nervous system in a parasympathetic, or “rest and restore,” state. So now, when I start to feel anxious at work, I stop and force myself to breathe smoothly and evenly for a few minutes. That’s all it takes. Whatever comes out of me after that is always—100 percent of the time—infinitely calmer and more rational than it would have been otherwise. I practice, and then I let go—well, I try! I’ve been working on this in the law job, too. In that context, I’m learning to separate the most impactful aspects of my job that I should focus on from the things I don’t have control over. Yoga is about finding the balance between practicing and letting go." Click here for the full article.

On a subliminal level, we are all aware that 'attitude is everything', but how much energy do we really spend cultivating and improving it?

Sally J Schmidt from Attorney At Work writes: Your professional attitude may need an adjustment. "Working in such a fast-paced environment, lawyers often have to move from project to project or problem to problem. In interactions with clients and other contacts, it’s easy to let your frustrations and moods slip in. I can always tell when someone doesn’t really want to take my phone call by a sigh or the greeting.

I’m not saying you can’t be a real person; I know everyone has ups and downs, particularly in this day and age. What I’m suggesting is that you think about how you can put others at ease. Clients are hiring you to help them with an issue and want you to give them confidence."

The following opportunities are identified by the author to revitalize your professional attitude during the workday:

  • Emails: personalise your communication with a follow-up to what a client may have shared with you. For example “Did you have a good trip to Hawaii?”

  • Virtual calls: inhale and exhale to release stress, smile, close other apps and focus on meeting and the people involved.

  • Meetings: shake off frustration and get ready to concentrate on the issues at hand. Prepare to greet participants and take a moment to build rapport. Put away your phone and anything else that might distract you.

  • Conferences/Events: Sit outside the venue for a moment and steel yourself for the best possible experience. Remind yourself why you’re there. Think about who you might see. Come up with a few conversation starters to get things going.

  • Phone calls: Exhale before answering the phone to relieve any stress you might have. Prepare a friendly greeting. Make notes to help you stay focused.

Read all the tips here.

For more content like this, email us on alert@lexinfo.co.za for a complimentary copy of our Practice Management Alert for evaluation.

Image: Pixabay

Date posted: 24 February 2022


Recent Posts

See All