Small Firm Life: Family Dynamics

As part of the Writers in Residence program, every month I will be writing an article on small firm life and offering tips for success in a small firm environment.  Although I work for a large firm nationwide, the office where I work in Miami is made up of six attorneys and twenty staff.  Like it or not, our office operates like a dysfunctional family. 

This first article is an introduction to the dynamics of my firm family. I am not sure if this dynamic is a result of the Miami culture, the size of our office, or both, but it certainly does make for some very amusing stories.  For example, the following things are acceptable and daily occurrences in my office: 

Shouting down the hallway, instead of picking up the phone, to ask a question;

The Paralegals wear Spandex, flip flops, head gear and/or a low cut shirts to the office because the Managing Partner is afraid to ask them to spend money on professional clothing;

The Managing Partner calls the Associates on the weekends to “check in,” and not because he needs anything;

Employees disclose their personal problems to the Managing Partner (we do not have an in office Human Resources person) and he will subsequently share this information with everyone in the office;

Everyone thanks the Managing Partner for buying bagels on Fridays even though they are purchased by the firm;

The Managing Partner “steals” our cell phones, as a joke, and subsequently reads our e-mails and/or answers our personal phone calls; and

The Managing Partner opens and distributes the office mail. 

In contrast, the following actions are looked down upon: 

Attorneys eating separately from the staff;

Leaving the office when our work is finished;

Contacting attorneys in our other offices for advice/assistance;

Relying on our corporate resources, we are encouraged to create our own resources;

Rainmaking; and

Building or maintaining client relationships separately from the Managing Partner.

In sum, at our office, the Managing Partner wants to be involved in everything and he encourages the family relationship.  Although this has its advantages, (the Managing Partner knows my name), it creates problems/issues that an associate at a big firm or with an in office HR person might not face.  This month I introduced my family, and hopefully some of you can relate, next month I will give you some ideas on how to act professionally while still participating in the in joking/ familial atmosphere.



Wow, great post. I can’t wait to hear more about your experiences.

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