Feed the lawyers

In a previous post, David and I discussed the challenges we have faced with some of our clients, who did not think we should provide food and beverages to the mock jurors and other research participants who work with us on a case. Sad, but true. Somewhat more surprisingly, we have had other clients who would not authorize Magnus to order lunch or dinner for the attorneys who were working with us on a research day. These clients, who also happen to be attorneys, instructed us not to allow the attorneys who worked in their law firm to order any food during the research day. Instead, some of these attorneys were required to “brown bag” their lunch, in a flagrant violation of hotels’ and research facilities’ policy prohibiting outside food and drinks from being consumed in their conference rooms. Others were required to eat their meals off site, meaning that they missed significant portions of the research day, all because the person who was ultimately paying the bill refused to allow them to eat lunch and dinner in the rooms where the mock jury research was being held. Some people, it seems, are overly concerned about minor details when, instead, they should be focusing on their multi million dollar litigation. On the rare occasions when this type of “nickel and dime” requirement has been imposed on Magnus, I am boldly direct when informing the client that all of the Magnus staff, who work long and hard on research days for the benefit of the client, will, most certainly, eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner and further, all of their food and beverages will be charged to the client. I go on to explain that, although I cannot control the client’s treatment of his/her staff, I can, and will, control the way my employees are treated and I would never, ever deny food and drinks to anyone in my employ. If I continue to be met with resistance, I explain that, if my staff and I, as well as the research participants, are not allowed to obtain nourishment during the 12 to 16 hour research day, Magnus will decline the opportunity to work on the case. When taken to this extreme, the clients who have attempted to impose this unrealistic rule relent, grudgingly agreeing to allow the Magnus staff to eat and drink during the research day. It is then quite uncomfortable when lunch is served and the attorneys who are present, but who are not allowed to eat, are in the room while everyone else is eating. But, without proper nourishment, my staff and I cannot perform our jobs. This is another glaring example of the differences between attorneys and psychologists related to how people deserve to be treated. And, as with the other topics covered in our posts, I am not making up any of this; it’s really true!

I will never forget having to contend with the feed the lawyers issue, but as with the mock jurors, I remember at least 2 scenarios. One involved governmental entities which, as with the mock jurors, would not pay for meals, for anyone. This happened more than one time and, on one occasion, the creative client figured out how to write the contract to make it work. For the other, no creativity was allowed and the attorneys had to bring, or forage for, their own meals. As we were working in conference space at a hotel, there was food to be had, at a price. But, the private attorney scenario was more revealing. His point was that he didn’t want his client, an injured individual, to think her money was being wasted feeding his staff. This was not a small case, but a personal injury case with a large damages potential and the attorney was already successful (read “wealthy”) and he could have paid for his attorneys and staff members’ meals out of his pocket. So, as a business owner, it became to me an issue of abusing his younger partners and staff. This obvious disregard for the well being of his hard working team is hard to fathom. On a research day, just as with the mock jurors, there is hardly any time to spend, or waste, hunting for lunch or dinner. It makes no sense. That is not a good use of anyone’s time and energy. It breaks the focus on the job at hand. Suffice it to say, for this and other reasons, that particular firm is not winning any competition for employer of the year. You have to take care of “your people” – defined as anyone employed to help you be even more successful! There may not be such a thing as a free lunch, but there are many reasons to provide a paid for meal!

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