Yes your business’ legal issues are full of many special and unique snowflakes to litigate. And then sometimes they are not and you just need a standard contract that is relevant and applicable to your workplace. When is which?
In the modern age of the democratization of knowledge, where online software can provide some pretty decent options to help resolve workplace issues and where legal subscription options can make legal documents and services more cost-effective, when should a business bother to hire a lawyer?
Not always, to be frank.
First, there are many great blogs out there (like ours!!), as well as good and helpful free legal information produced by the government, human rights tribunals, law societies, advocacy groups, education groups and so on. At SpringLaw, we find it quite useful when a client comes to us with that head start of basic information. We can all start the conversation a few steps ahead.
Clearing up the facts
Secondly, not every problem should be litigated. Not even every legal problem should be litigated. We love to get our elbows up and battle it out when required (who doesn’t love to end a stern letter with “Please govern yourself accordingly”?), but an aggressive litigious approach is rarely the most practical or effective approach.
In the workplace, so many problems are more Broken Telephone than Legal. Have all facts been gathered? Are the parties involved fully informed of the applicable policies or procedures? Is everyone on the same page about which employment contract provision applies? Have the parties just, well, um, TALKED to each other first?
Our clients are comprised of both employers (big and small) and employees (execs and frontline). It actually doesn’t matter how far up the corporate ladder a person is, there still is the reality that most employees/executives do not have the full picture of how decisions were made behind the scenes. And most employers/management do not fully understand how their actions or words are being interpreted and/or misconstrued.
So do you hire a lawyer to solve your Broken Telephone problem? Yes, sometimes. But we would say always start with a careful look at whether common sense and due process have been followed. Has everyone’s side of the story been heard? Are assumptions being made about what documents or facts we’re each relying on?
Much of workplace disputes are credibility and human relationship based. Hearing each other out and clarifying facts is more than half the battle. We don’t naively think everyone will get along – they won’t and some people really shouldn’t work together -but we are always amazed at how much could have and should have been cleared up WAY before the parties dug into their polarized, distrusting positions.
Unlike a B2B or third party type of transaction, most workplace disputes are between people who see each other more than their family, so it is not a matter of lack of relationship or information. It’s about assumptions, misinformation, fact-finding and clearing the air.
If after all that you still are not seeing eye to eye then yes, of course, seek out a lawyer. And while there is a place for automated, DIY, online legal software and programs, other times you need the human touch (e.g. a real life experienced lawyer). The modern and real value a workplace lawyer can bring to the table is to identify the factual gaps and the assumptions being made that sometimes a business owner can’t see when she is in the trenches just trying to run a business.
Being Pro-Active about Messy Humanity
The modern workplace is just so much more complex and sophisticated than a binary right-wrong conclusion. It’s messy and full of human relationships. While law continues to be that crucial line between order and chaos, how we all apply the law to the modern workplace is evolving and full of more effective nuances to solve workplace problems.
Having core documents, policies, procedures and compliance systems in place will free up businesses to focus on the application of those systems to run the business. Businesses can then turn to pro-active solutions based on an effective existing infrastructure, and pull in professionals upfront to help set up the systems and documents, with the aim of avoiding all that messy and very expensive human conflict down the road.
Get in touch if you have a workplace snowflake to figure out. But even more useful, call us to help set up all that generic, standard, cost-effective stuff in your workplace so you can focus on running your business, instead of having to spend time putting out soul and money sucking legal fires.