Eight career-limiting moves

Here Precedent outlines eight career-limiting moves. Take heed — or risk a life circling the partnership track, a licence suspension or jail time

As the economy snails along, some firms are still looking for reasons to slash a few not-so-good men and women from their ranks. Afraid you could be next? Stop sending your mom so many emails from work (can’t you come up with your own dinner idea?), do something about the dandruff and quit playing the office gossip

By Crystal Luxmore

On Tuesday March 9th, 2010

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Eight career-limiting moves

As the economy snails along, some firms are still looking for reasons to slash a few not-so-good men and women from their ranks. Afraid you could be next? Stop sending your mom so many emails from work (can’t you come up with your own dinner idea?), do something about the dandruff and quit playing the office gossip

CLM - Precedent Spring 2010Sleeping your way to the bottom
Let’s face it, if you spend all your time at the office, you don’t get many opportunities to meet that special someone. And if dating websites are blocked at work, then your best bet is someone right down the hall. Pickings are slim, but you do have a few options. How ’bout your assistant or someone from IT? Sleeping with the staff has to be less risky than bonking a fellow associate, right?

Wrong. It’s all about power. Choosing a love interest at the same salary and decisionmaking level as yourself evens the playing field and will do less to tarnish your career… unless said love interest is wearing a gold band.

Here, Precedent’s guide to doing the dirty at work:

  • Married Partner & Articling Student
    Shame on you!
  • Partner & Client
    See you at the LSUC Tribunal
  • Partner & Secretary
    Bye bye reputation
  • Associate & Summer Student
    We’ll look the other way
  • Associate & Associate
    When’s the wedding?

CLM 2Getting file-jacked

Personal injury law firm D’Angela Fox Vanounou LLP knows a thing or two about throwing a one-two punch. On Christmas Eve 2008 the three associates and a paralegal, then toiling at Grillo & Associates, left a farewell note and packed up 250 client files to start their own firm.

The coup d’état went to the Ontario Superior Court where a judge found the former employees’ actions breached loyalty and “that their own self-interest was their touchstone,” but left it up to the clients to decide which firm got their files, saying a mass return could cause clients “total confusion.”

Lesson learned the hard way by Grillo & Associates? Don’t forget the non-solicitation clause.

CLM 3Skimming a lot off the top

A covert transaction or two could lead to:
a) a beach house in Barbados
b) disbarment
c) a lifetime behind bars
d) all of the above

The answer, of course, is d. Siphoning clients’ funds, committing fraud or using insider information to fatten your bank account is tempting, but getting caught equals career suicide. Last year, half of the lawyers whom the Law Society of Upper Canada disbarred had committed fraud or embezzlement.

Cha-ching! That’s the sound of your reputation getting flushed down the toilet.

CLM 4Bringing Whiskers to work

Would you take your sick baby to work? Well, the same rule applies to pets. One associate’s “cat lady” reputation took an even deeper dive after she insisted on bringing her ill kitty to work and the cat brought up its dinner all over the office.

Other things you should never bring to the office:

  • Microwave popcorn
  • Heavy perfume or cologne
  • Those cool samurai swords you picked up in Japan
  • Framed picture of your mistress
  • The mug with your favourite Godfather quote:
  • “A lawyer with a brief can steal more than a thousand men with guns.”

CLM 5Forgetting to brush

No one thinks they have bad breath. Three ways to tell if you do:

1) Your articling student offers you gum and/or mints consistently and with pleading eyes.
2) Whenever you lean toward your client to go over paperwork, they shrivel their nose ever so slightly and inch away.
3) Your colleague tells you he’s put a bottle of Listerine in the washroom and it’s “for sharing.”

CLM 6Pills, powder, booze

Warning, you are high risk — the Ontario Lawyer’s Assistance Program (OLAP) reports that lawyers are three times more likely than the average Canadian to be drug addicts or alcoholics.

While 63 percent of the over 300 addicts currently receiving treatment through OLAP are doing so to wean off pills, powder and booze, the fastest growing addictions are to Internet porn and online gambling. Bottoming out the addictions category, but certainly not a career-limiting move, six percent of those being treated by OLAP are seeking counselling for being workaholics.

CLM 7Dressing like an individual

Keeping your job means looking, not just acting, the part. “Ninety-five percent of you is covered with clothing and accessories, so that’s going to say something about you,” says Diane Craig, president of Corporate Class Inc., a Toronto image and etiquetteconsultancy. In a world of black wool suits, little things send strong signals about your credibility.

Craig recalls a 31-year-old lawyer who took a client meeting sporting an expensive black suit, well-fitted shirt and tie and black shoes and black socks. “Then he sits down and crosses his legs and there’s a big Nike swoosh on the side of his socks,” an immediate signal, says Craig, that this associate was young and inexperienced.

CLM 8Being duped

The LSUC punishes lawyers every year for “failing to be on guard against being duped by” or “becoming the tool or dupe of” their ill-intentioned clients. But perhaps no one has been punished as cruelly as veteran criminal lawyer Noel Daley. The jovial lawyer who says he has “a heart the size of Newfoundland and Labrador,” agreed to mentor a woman who claimed to be a third-year law student. She convinced Daley that she was possessed by his dead sister’s spirit and could help him with his practice. Then the selfproclaimed witch defrauded Daley for $148,000, putting his retirement plans on a long hold. In November, police charged her with fraud — and, under an anachronistic section of the Criminal Code, with pretending to practise witchcraft.