Dear Amicus Agony,
I am a first-year associate who is new to legal practice. On a daily basis, I endure verbal abuse from one of my senior partners. He says my drafts are “terrible” and routinely calls me “stupid” and “inept”. Often, he will berate me in front of a group of other young lawyers. He once e-mailed everyone in the firm with my draft attached as an example of “unacceptable work”. To make matters worse, he usually reviews my drafts at 7:00pm and expects me to further amend the draft the very same night. I rarely get to leave the office before midnight. Am I being bullied or is this simply my partner’s working style? How do I move forward?
Dear Pour Soul,
You are not alone. Bullying is the continuous, less favourable treatment of an individual which may be deemed unreasonable or inappropriate. It does not necessarily have to involve a physical component and can include threats or acts of intimidation, humiliation, and deliberate provocation. Many endure bullying in the workplace, be it in its blatant or more subtle forms.
If you believe that you are the victim of bullying, take note of and chart the pattern of behaviour in question. Document everything from when each incident happened, what caused it, and who was present.
Do not confront your partner head-on during an incident as this may provoke him and the situation may worsen considerably. Instead, have a sit-down discussion with your partner when all parties are calm and collected. Go through each specific incident and explain to your partner why you felt that you were being bullied. While your feelings are important, be objective and prepared to accept genuine criticism of areas where your work could have been better or how you could have contributed to your partner’s behaviour.
If this does not work, you should approach your firm’s HR department or another senior lawyer in your firm whom you trust. Be prepared that they will not immediately side with you, in which case, your documentation of the relevant incidents will be useful to convince them. Thereafter, they will likely investigate and try to resolve the dispute by looking at the facts and interviewing other people in the workplace. In the unfortunate situation where there is no one else to approach or if the matter is serious enough to amount to a criminal offence, consider escalating the matter to the relevant authorities.
Dear Amicus Agony,
I have been with the same firm for the last five years. However, since last year, my partners have been consistently pushing me to bring in new clients. I am at a loss at how to do this. My social circle is small and none of my friends or family seem to need lawyers right now. This was not something that was taught in university! What is business development, why is it important, and could you give me a few pointers to help me on my way?
Arrested Business Development
Dear Arrested Business Development,
This seems like an exciting time for you! You are being given the opportunity to pursue business development and it should not be wasted. You should understand that first and foremost, business development is a long game. It isn’t going to happen overnight.
Simply put, the end game of business development is to improve a practice by strengthening or increasing one’s client base, thereby generating higher revenue and positively impacting profits. This is done by forging strong relationships, instead of pushing your brand into your client’s face. The fundamental purpose of business development is to ensure the longevity and success of your practice.
There are many strategies you can implement. Here are a just a few to get you started.
Before searching for new clients, look after your current clients. No one wants an unhappy client as it may damage your reputation. Once you have taken care of your clients’ needs effectively, they would be more likely to recommend you to their friends. This simple strategy of “word-of-mouth” marketing cannot be underestimated. Past clients who are satisfied is one of the best ways to grow your business.
Next, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there! Participate in networking events and forums. Write articles and contribute actively to publications. Setting yourself up as a specialist in a certain practice area is a great way to generate leads. Don’t shy away from social media and ensure that your profiles on these platforms are up to date. As technology progresses, so should the way that lawyers engage with the public.
Once new clients and referrals have come your way, do your best to make sure that they are happy with your amazing service. Be sure to meet deadlines and constantly be available for any questions. If your clients are satisfied, your name will naturally spread, and business will slowly, but surely, blossom.