Should lawyers dodge Cupid’s arrow — particularly in the law firm setting?

Yes, lawyers are human and need romance and love — even if lawyer jokes may assert otherwise.

Such as: “What’s the difference between a lawyer and a jellyfish? One is a spineless, poisonous blob. The other is a form of sea life.”

Ha, ha … very original …

Indeed, if anyone needs love, that would be lawyers given the long hours they work, their professional reputation (see above) and, of course, student debt loads.

So it should not come as surprise that lawyers — even though they are well schooled when it comes to the possible risks — do indeed seek to find that someone special in their professional spheres.

With Valentine’s Day, fast approaching, we thought it would be appropriate to speak about the positives and negatives when it comes to office romance and lawyers.

And how to be smart about it …

It’s happening. Indeed, a Vault survey done in 2013 found that 51% of lawyers had had an office romance.

It broke it down this way: “So what, exactly, do we mean by romance? 22% of respondents said they had been in a casual relationship with a co-worker, 18% owned up to a random office hookup, 16% established a long-term, serious relationship with a colleague, and 7% had actually met their spouse or partner on the job.”

Seven percent found true love? That’s cool … Indeed, Barack Obama met a women named Michelle Robinson at a law firm. That worked out pretty well for them.

It should not be shocking, since lawyers spend hours and hours and hours and hours at the workplace. Leaves little time to make their online dating profiles sparkle …

But can it be dangerous?

You bet, particularly if the love affair isn’t on equal footing, job position-wise.

A writer on the website Law Crossing warns: “Many people told me that some of the biggest problems with office romances come about when one of the romancers is more powerful than the other. I’m not saying such romances never work out; on rare occasions they do. But the downside risks are significant.”

Many firms frown about it because of the consequences. Lawsuits could fly. (We’re talking about lawyers here …)

The writer notes that such an affair can have long-lasting impact. “If you date ‘above’ your station, you’ll be the target of gossip and political controversy. You don’t want to get the reputation of trading sex for advantages at the office, because it will stick with you forever.”

And be discreet, the writer adds. You’re in an office, not a hotel room: “If you engage in a quick smooch at the copy machine when you think no one’s looking, if you give them a quick little smile or a wink, somebody's going to smoke you out.”

It’s not just the two parties involved that can feel tension and/or damage from office romances, according to an article from the magazine Plaintiff. Other lawyers could feel that the relationship is impacting them. 

According to the article: “Even if the romance is consensual between the boss and subordinate, other employees could sue the employer for demonstrating favoritism or make hostile work environment claims.”

Sure, these relationships can work, but they can cause all sorts of grief if they do happen to flameout.

As the writer in Law Crossing notes: “Apart from the threat to your career, consider the toll it can take on you personally. Close your eyes for a moment, and visualize any romance you’ve had in the past that resulted in a break-up. (Happy thought, eh?) Now think about how things would have been if, after the break-up—whether you were the breaker or the breakee—you had to see that person every day. Yikes!”

So, um, happy Valentine’s Day.

 

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