The importance of balancing professional and personal

Personal or professional in law firmsFor those of you who are law firm partners, managers or supervisors, balancing the professional and personal in the workplace can oftentimes be difficult and blurry.  On one hand, you need your employees to respect you as a law firm partner, manager or supervisor.  On the other hand, many law firm partners, manager or supervisors feel as if they can perform their job better if they are liked and have a personal relationship with those who work under them.

For many, this is a real quandary trying to find the right balance.  Is one more important than the other?  Can a law firm partner, manager or supervisor have both a professional and a personal relationship with those whom they work?  This is a question many ask.

First and foremost, a law firm is a professional work environment.  Employees come to work to perform a job.  The job entails providing quality legal services to the clients of the firm if they are fulfilling a legal role.  If somebody is filling an administrative role, their job might be helping fulfill an administrative function at the firm so the law firm attorneys and paralegals can perform the legal functions.

Any time a law firm employs an employee the law firm and the employee also have responsibilities from a legal and regulatory perspective.  The same is true as it relates to the obligations that are likely set forth in the employment manual of the law firm.

Having said that, it some teamwork and comradery can be established in the law firm, this is certainly a positive.  It is beneficial, after all, if employees can work together for the mutual benefit of the clients and the law firm to do great work.

On the other hand, when a law firm becomes more personal than professional, this can create a casualness that can be potentially problematic.  With casualness, the professionalism can slowly cease.  When the professionalism dwindles, it can be harder for a law firm partner, manager or supervisor to have the respect of those who work under them.

When the law firm partner, manager or supervisor becomes more of a casual acquaintance than a professional partner, supervisor or manager, all kinds of lines can be blurred.  When these lines become blurred, the employees can begin responding to the law firm partner, manager or supervisor more as a casual acquaintance than the professional role they hold.  At the same time, the law firm partner, manager or supervisor can begin communicating to those under them as a casual acquaintance as well versus a professional employee.

On a multiplicity of levels, this can be problematic to the workplace.  Ultimately, this can result in the morale dropping in the workplace — when the hope of knowing others in the workplace was that it would build teamwork and comradery.  It can also result in less getting done for the firms’ clients and the law firm due to the distractions that the casualness can create.

In the end, it is a positive development if employees like working with their law firm partner, manager or supervisor or vice versa.  At the same time, the balance always has to be firmly in the favor of professional versus personal if you want your law firm to be successful.  That’s why you should look for ways to ensure you are maintaining a professional law firm, work environment, while having a workplace where teamwork and comradely is promoted — on a purely professional level.

If you have any thoughts, feel free to share them below.

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