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
Almost 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.
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.