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Nothing But the Ruth!

Dogs in the Law Office

By | Oct.09.13 | Daily Dispatch, Law Practice, Nothing But The Ruth!, Workstyles

Nothing But the Ruth

I love my dog, Rosie. One of the benefits of having a virtual law practice is I get to work from home a lot — and that means my six-year-old basset hound is never far away. I also take her on work-related errands to dog-friendly places. The clerks at my mail center adore her and give her treats, and I’ve taken her to a few professional events held at dog-friendly resorts.

I’m thinking about moving to a bricks-and-mortar law office next year, and one criteria high on my list is whether Rosie would be welcome. I love working with Rosie, and it made me wonder about other lawyers who bring their dogs to work. So I asked around and sent a survey.

The Benefits of Having a Dog in the Office

RosieAlmost everyone who shared their experiences with me said one of the benefits of having a dog in the office is that it forces them to take breaks to feed, water and walk their dogs. They said taking breaks and having a loving ball of fur at their feet or on their laps reduces their stress. As Nisha Noroian said about Roxy, her six-month-old Pomeranian, “[U]sually when she needs to be taken outside for a bathroom break, I’m ready for a break outdoors as well! When I feel stressed or overwhelmed, it’s so nice to be able to reach down and pet her a little.” Nisha is an Associate at Phoenix firm Poulton Kafka.

Several people also said the stress reduction that comes from having a dog in the office makes them better able to do quality work.

Do Clients and Dogs Mix?

All the litigators who shared their experiences said they couldn’t take their dog to court for obvious reasons, but there were discordant responses when it came to whether the lawyer’s dog got to interact with clients. Elder lawyer, Lynn Bayes-Weiner, who’s based in Overland Park, KS, said she never brings her six-month-old Australian terrier, Joey, to work on days she sees clients because she respects “the fact that not all people are dog lovers.”

Conversely, Tucson family and bankruptcy attorney Reagen Kulseth regularly brings five of her dogs to work, and some of them will lay in clients’ arms during meetings. She said, “Clients feel less intimidated in coming to meet me because of the dogs and it often gives new clients and I something in common to chit-chat about before they reveal their intimate details to me.”

Not Everyone is Pro-Office Dogs

While there are benefits to having dogs in the office, there are those who believe dogs need to stay home. Lawyerist’s Sam Glover loves his collie-husky mix, but says he had to change his office policy about letting subtenants (all attorneys) bring their dogs to work. “The dogs were well-behaved as long as their owners were in their offices,” said Sam, “but if they went to check the mail or use the bathroom, the dogs would whine and howl the whole time they were gone. More importantly, dogs aren’t professional. There is no suit you can wear that will counteract the extreme casualness of having a dog in your office while you meet with a client.”

There are Always Great Dog Stories

If you meet a lawyer who brings their four-legged best friend to work, ask them to tell you some stories — they will melt your heart and make you laugh. Just take a look at Rocket Matter’s “Law Office Pets” page.

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My favorite story comes from former county attorney Chad Belville. In his words: “I was the elected county attorney for Worth County, Iowa and as such, prosecuted a lot of people that really deserved it. One day a defendant came to my office because he wanted to talk to me about getting his guns back that had been seized and forfeited as part of a criminal case. My Australian Shepherd Sheldon, who normally slept a lot or just laid by my desk, looked like he was about to pounce and had his teeth bared at this guy the whole time. There was no chance those guns were going back to this guy, but Sheldon seemed to put the emphasis on it.”

Share Your Office Dog Pictures

If you are a lawyer who has the pleasure of your dog’s company at work, tell us about it in the comments below, or share your pictures on the Attorney at Work Facebook page.

Ruth Carter is a lawyer, writer and speaker. Her virtual practice, The Carter Law Firm, focuses on intellectual property, social media, First Amendment and flash mob law. Named an ABA Journal 2012 Legal Rebel, Ruth is the author the new ABA book, Flash Mob Law: The Legal Side of Planning and Participating in Pillow Fights, No Pants Rides, and Other Shenanigans, as well as The Legal Side of Blogging: How Not to Get Sued, Fired, Arrested or Killed. In “Nothing But the Ruth,” she writes about the lessons she’s learning while building her new practice. She also blogs weekly at UndeniableRuth.com.

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Illustration ©ImageZoo. Photo of Rosie courtesy of Ruth Carter.

6 Responses to “Dogs in the Law Office”

  1. James Bartells
    9 October 2013 at 8:22 am #

    I have been bringing my black lab (now the second one) for years. Clients love it. Most are extremely nervous about going to a lawyer and my dog relaxes the mood. I have also found it to be a good test of potential clients. If they person does not get along with my dog, they invariably have a suspect case. Sounds silly but in almost 20 years it has always been correct. One client started with a fear of dogs and by the time her case was concluded she was bringing treats and loving my lab.

  2. Casey
    9 October 2013 at 8:39 am #

    Rosie is such a doll!!! I also have a basset hound, named Pierre. He goes to my office with me quite regularly, and he’s always under my feet when I work from home. I find myself getting far less uptight when he’s at the office with me. However, my office doors have glass paneling, so I have to keep a bottle of Windex handy for nose smudges. Most of my clients love Pierre, and some even ask if he will be there when they come in because they saw his photo on my website. He has a calming effect at times for my clients who suffer from Alzheimer’s or Dementia. Unless he’s getting petted, he sleeps all day. I can definitely see how some breeds would work out better than others for in-office dogs. But for me and Pierre…it’s a win.

  3. Pat H
    9 October 2013 at 9:29 am #

    One thing that’s very difficult for dog fans to grasp is that some people are strongly allergic to dogs, and some of those people are your clients. These people may like dogs themselves but you are effectively telling them to take a hike if you keep a dog routinely at your office (I get bringing the new puppy in, etc., and I’m not talking about that).

    I’ve had partners who brought dogs to work over the years and I’ve never objected. One partner routinely did that the entire time he worked here. But I’ve also known a few people who were so allergic to dogs that their allergy was at the near fatal reaction level. One of those individuals was so allergic to dogs that their personal policy was to not enter a home where a dog was kept inside. They just couldn’t, as even being near a dog outside would cause a reaction. A lawyer I know was similarly allergic and would never ride in an automobile where the owner let dogs ride inside the vehicle. He couldn’t.

    For that matter, a friend of my daughters had such a strong allergy to cats that being a house with a cat made her ill. I know that, as that was my house. Our cat lives outdoors for the most part, but he comes in and the poor girl went home ill. Had I known I would have done something, but I just didn’t, and while she didn’t interact with the cat, she didn’t say anything. And the classic response of “I’ll just toss the cat outdoors while you are here” or “I’ll lock Rover up in this room while you are here” does not good at all to those people. The allergens are in the building and at best all they can do is quietly endure being made ill in order to be polite.

    Anyhow, I note all of this as people who are allergic to pets basically simply endure it and move on to where they aren’t. Dogs have no place in a public office if some of that part of the public is allergic to dogs. And that includes nearly every law office. While I know that I’ll get hostile responses to it, leave the dog at home and spare your unsuspecting allergic clients.

    Finally, if you have a practice with rural clients (farmers and ranchers) they may like dogs, but by and large they’ll find your keeping a dog, at least a big dog, indoors to be a bit rude and dirty. People who use working dogs view them as an outdoor animal. They’ won’t say anything to you, but they sure will note it to somebody else. I’ve experienced that more than once as well.

  4. w. adam mandelbaum esq.
    11 October 2013 at 9:38 am #

    This is nonsense. While I have had a good client and referral source bring her dogs to my office, I was somewhat less than pleased. Dogs are not primary examples of cleanliness. They usually host fleas. They can also host a variety of nasty bugs. You are risking creating an environment unhealthy to yourself, your staff and your clients. Plus the presence of a dog is a significant distraction to your primary function, which is to perform legal servicesfor your clients. Only in Western countries do they worship the canine, other countries have the more realistic view of what a dog is. It’s a dog, despite all of your anthropomorphic desires to make it something more. Are we attorneys, or are we pet shop owners? By the way, on a personal level, I think dogs are cool, but on a professional level, not in the office. Never.

  5. Kathy
    25 October 2013 at 7:55 am #

    I think people overreact to the “negative” effects of dogs in an office. I have brought my dog to my office for nine years with no problems. I think it helps that the conference rooms and “public” areas are on the first floor and the offices are all private upstairs on multiple levels, so clients don’t see or interact with any dogs save for the brief moments a person may be walking through the lobby to go outside. Of course, there are certain office formats (like ours) where dogs aren’t intrusive and there are office formats where bringing pets would probably not be a realistic option.

    I have seen a lot of coworkers come and go in this place over the years and none have had allergies. I think it also helps that we have a nightly cleaning service. From my experience at home and otherwise, cleanliness isn’t an issue. Us humans are way worse than the dogs.

    I also don’t think all breeds and all dogs are appropriate. A few people in my office have brought their dog a time or two and it just didn’t work out for them. I’ve now had two dogs at this office. My old dog really couldn’t hear or see well in her later years, so people rarely even noticed the old dog sleeping all day under one of my desks in my office. My new dog is young and very active for short spurts but otherwise just sleeps as well. She has her few coworkers she “visits” on my floor for treats or attention (it doesn’t take a dog long to figure out who welcomes their attention and who doesn’t), but otherwise she sticks by me.

    As long as everyone gets along with an doesn’t mind a dog, I also must say it’s been great for me and for my dogs, former and current. It’s a huge selling point to bring your dog to work. You don’t ever have the guilt of leaving an animal home by themselves all day. My old dog used to be very nervous to have any change in habit, but when I started bringing her to work every day when she was 12, the nervousness soon wore off and she became accustomed to varied people and environments. The weirdest part is that none of the dogs ever bark at anyone coming in the front door. They just pass on through to leave, do their business outside, etc., and ignore the lobby people. It’s odd to see how well dogs can adapt to this environment.


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