General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Division

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American Bar Association - Defending Liberty, Pursuing Justice

March 2008

Vol. 4, No. 2

Business Law

 

I Bring My Dog to Work

I bring my dog, Mizzen, to work with me. She is a one-year-old AKC-registered schipperke, which my wife and I occasionally show as a hobby. At first, I didn’t want to bring Mizzen to work because I was anxious about my professional image, but it has been a great experience because the animal humanizes me.

[Photo of Lloyd Cohen with his dog, Mizzen]
Lloyd Cohen with his dog, Mizzen

If a client is overstressed, I often suggest that we take a moment to visit Mizzen. Even if our dog break is only a few minutes long, it permits an interlude in which we can converse like regular people. Then, when we return to the legal issues, everything somehow feels a little better. Likewise, if I find a phone call to be difficult, I can refocus by taking my own dog break. Mizzen is not perfect, and sometimes she adds to the stress. I am still feeling the pain of staring into a frozen computer screen after finding that she who was supposed to be sleeping on my feet had instead chewed through my loosely hanging keyboard wires.

Mizzen makes me take two walks a day. Sometimes this is the only exercise that I get. Amazingly, people are friendlier when you are with a dog. By walking her, I am getting to know the commuters and resident who live in my office neighborhood. Smokers ostracized from the indoors find my dog walks pleasant entertainment to puff by. Also, she regulates my day. About 6:00 p.m. she starts barking as if to say, “You may want to work late but I want to go home and get fed.”

My dog represents an ideal to me. That ideal is the notion that we who are in small firms should be able to customize our workspace and workstyle in a way that makes the practice of law more livable and enjoyable. This notion seems foreign only to lawyers. I see my children and their colleagues (who are all in their 20s and getting careers) making lifestyle choices. However, I needed a dog to convince me of the importance of work-life balance.

Views about life balance are evolving, and these days how we choose to work and live is always changing. For me, even though I read the work-life articles, none really sunk in until I got a dog. I thank my dog for making me more human.

Lloyd D. Cohen is a 28+ year solo who is practicing a lot of bankruptcy and a little estate-planning/probate in Columbus, Ohio.

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