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NOTHING BUT THE RUTH!

Office Dogs Improve Law Firm Morale

By Ruth Carter
workaholic lawyers

Catch up on Ruth Carter’s posts here.

Have you met my Lucy Jane? She is a basset hound mix that I began fostering in late April, and we finalized her adoption a few weeks later. She’s come to the office every day since she came into my life, and the entire office is better for it.

Insisting on a Dog-Friendly Office

When my current firm, Venjuris, invited me to join them, I said, “Great! I come with a dog.” (I’d been a solo for nearly three years and had an office where my basset hound, Rosie, was always welcome.) That surprised the shareholders, and we scheduled a third interview where everyone could meet Rosie. Once they quickly realized that having her in the office would be a non-issue, we finalized my contract.

After I started bringing Rosie to the office, which I wrote about here, others started bringing their dogs occasionally, too. Dogs definitely add a level of happiness to our stressful jobs. Pets can also help ease the loneliness of solo practice. Rosie passed away in August 2020, and the whole office was sad to see her go. When Lucy Jane came into my life, I didn’t have to ask if I could bring her to the office. I just started bringing her every day.

Of course, a law firm is a professional environment, and my dogs have always been well-behaved. Additionally, I’ve always had a baby gate across my door. It has an easy-open swinging door that allows people to come and go, and my dog can be contained as needed.

Client Reactions to an Office Dog

Lucy Jane is one of the happiest dogs I’ve ever met, and she adores people. She walks up to people with a big smile on her face and looks at them as if to say, “You will pet me now.” I’ve never seen a client have a bad reaction to my dog. With the baby gate on my door, I have the option to leave Lucy Jane in my office or invite her to join us in the conference room. Every client has preferred to have her in the room.

She has even been helpful with people who aren’t my clients. The other day, a solo who operates his firm out of the same building as me had a court appearance that involved calling witnesses. He was set up in the conference room with his video camera and microphone, and his witnesses waited in our lobby when they weren’t testifying. Lucy Jane walked herself into the lobby, sat down among them, and they all loved on her as they passed the time.

Dogs Are Good for Networking

Bringing my dog to the office has made me much more connected with my officemates. Lucy Jane and I have a morning routine that includes making a lap around the office, saying good morning with everyone. As a result, I have better relationships with them.

Additionally, having Lucy Jane in the office is good for morale. Everybody smiles when they see her. Many stop by my office to say hello and give Lucy Jane belly rubs.

When it comes to networking outside the office, I don’t see having a dog as a hindrance. Thanks to websites like Bring Fido, it’s easy to find a dog-friendly place for coffee or lunch. I also purchased a leash that attaches to a waist belt for situations where I’ll want the option to have both hands free.

Lucy Jane will be attending Content Marketing World with me this year. I know I’m going to meet people who are drawn to me because of my dog. I’m curious to see how that will affect the relationships I make at the event.

Office Dogs Are Good for Work-Life Balance

I became more of a workaholic lawyer after Rosie died, and Lucy Jane has helped me restore some balance to my life. Having a dog in the office forces me to take periodic breaks to take her outside, and I have to leave the office at a reasonable time to get her home for dinner and evening walks.

Lucy Jane and I are also a match for each other on an emotional level. I was in a car accident earlier this year that caused a concussion. After the accident, I was diagnosed with PTSD because of my fears related to driving. When I experienced Lucy Jane’s calming temperament, I registered her as my emotional support dog, so she can go most places with me. On the flip side, she has separation anxiety, likely because she was found as a stray, and it’s obvious she had a family before (who didn’t come back for her). She always wants to know where I am.

Having an emotional support dog at the office is calming during stressful situations. There will be times when I’m in a conference room, working with my senior partner, feeling stressed, and just looking down at her lying at my feet makes me smile and take a much-needed deep breath. Sometimes, I take a five-minute break from work at my desk to sit on Lucy Jane’s couch with her (yes, it’s her couch) to give her pets.

Is your office pet-friendly?

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

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Ruth B. Carter Ruth Carter

Ruth Carter — lawyer, writer and professional speaker — is Of Counsel with Venjuris, focusing on intellectual property, business, internet and flash mob law. Named an ABA Journal Legal Rebel, Ruth is the author of “The Legal Side of Blogging for Lawyers,” as well as “Flash Mob Law: The Legal Side of Planning and Participating in Pillow Fights, No Pants Rides, and Other Shenanigans.” Ruth blogs at UndeniableRuth.com and tweets @rbcarter.

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