Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

"No Jerk" Rules and Faculty Hiring

With the AALS Faculty Recuitment Conference next week, check out this article from today's Daily Business Review: At Firms With 'No Jerks' Rules, Abusive Attorneys Need Not Apply, by Charles C. Papy III & Harvey W. Gurland Jr. (both of Duane Morris, Miami):

[M]any executives and human resources departments across the United States have already adopted informal "no jerks" hiring and firing policies.

The trend in the legal industry toward "jerks-free" working environments comes when legal work has become more complex and stressful for attorneys, both new and experienced, who increasingly must meet or exceed the expectations created by their compensation.

Law firms must also overcome other obstacles, such as the inherent power differences, both real and perceived, between attorneys, increased competition and the simple fact that aggressiveness in the interest of clients can often wrongly translate to interactions with staff. In turn, firms are increasingly identifying and addressing concerns involving those attorneys and staff members who, for example, are abusive to co-workers, engage in harmful office politics or act in open and uncompromising self-interest to the detriment of the firm or its employees. What's more, they're doing so regardless of how many hours the offenders bill or how much business they generate.

An analysis of the long-term benefits of instituting such a policy makes clear the reasons for the shift in approach at the country's largest law firms. According to Stanford professor Dr. Robert Sutton in his book detailing the no-jerks policy, titled somewhat less delicately The No Asshole Rule, even small and seemingly insubstantial changes in workplace behaviors can effect significant improvements for the company as a whole, including less absenteeism, less employee complaints, higher morale and higher productivity. The bottom line can also see benefits, in the form of decreased labor-related litigation costs, less overtime hours logged and, of course, higher profits. Perhaps more convincing for management at many firms, however, is the cost of allowing such behavior to go unchecked. Beyond the obvious productivity and morale effects, the time and monetary costs of managing the problems associated with even a single abusive employee are astounding.

According to Sutton's book, one company estimated the total costs associated with one employee who was widely considered to be a "jerk." They calculated that he had cost the company $160,000 in a single year.

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What happens if the jerk who costs 160K brings in 250K (or 500K or 1 million) in billings annually?

Posted by: Joel S. | Oct 17, 2007 1:04:27 PM