10 Safety Tips for Law Firms, Lawyers and Legal professionals
Physical violence committed by clients against lawyers and legal professionals is real. It happens in small towns and big cities, and in small and large legal practices. Some practice phone system for law firms areas are more volatile than others, such as divorce and family law, argument resolution, employment law and real estate litigation. Particularly in a bad economy with high being out of work, attitudes are short and more people reach numbers of desolation.
While dramatic cases like shootings at law firms make headers, the majority of security incidents among lawyers and staff are unreported because they involve pestering and lower level dangers. In the privacy of attorney-client meetings, emotional and sometimes nonrational individuals eyelash out at their lawyers. Money is often at the heart of differences and many lawyers are confronted with disagreements about their billable hours. Clients become upset and irate about how their case is proceeding or the result of a case. Meetings that involve elevated voices and strong language can be the precursor to a physical altercation.
Receptionists and other staff in law firms also encounter angry, hostile clients. Although experienced receptionists have a thick skin and are sometimes competed in how to manage pestering by clients and opposition parties, there are situations when they are truly vulnerable and in danger.
Law practice management ought to include systems and procedures that ensure workplace safety and physical violence prevention for lawyers and staff. All law office employees should buy the skills to acknowledge and manage threatening, potentially dangerous individuals. Client-facing legal professionals need tools to protect themselves and forestall early stage situations from rising into major, dangerous events.
Here are 10 safety tips for lawyers and legal staff.
- Create a safe work environment for receptionists. Ensure receptionists have a clear view of the office entry way with little chance of individuals to sneak in or hide, particularly doors, elevators, and all traffic flow. Design top desk to provide a barrier between receptionists and clients but also allows easy escape. Delineate a clear understanding of where clients are allowed to be in the vestibule and front desk area. Remove office objects from the front desk that are potential tools and keep them stored in compartments or cabinets — staplers, scissors and letter openers. Keep computer screens and family photos away from public view.
- Establish safe meeting areas for clients and lawyers. Safe areas range from windows to allow co-workers to see what is occurring inside but still maintain secrecy. Meeting areas should have two entrances so lawyers and staff can avoid being cornered. Before entering meeting rooms with potentially threatening clients, remove potential tools from them.
- Install security technology. Technology helps protect employees, reduces the seriousness of incidents and ways to quickly respond to situations. Consider installing buzzer doors that allow entry only after confirmation of the visitor. Provide panic buttons for lawyers, receptionists and other staff to carefully inform others of a potentially dangerous situation before it escalates. Cameras and adequate lighting also help deter attackers.
- Train all lawyers and staff how to deal with angry clients. Defusing skills and finding out how to de-escalate hostile behavior are very important for lawyers and client-facing employees. Listening skills, redirecting negative behavior, setting limits and assault awareness are all acquired skills that needs to be continually perfected with training and practice. There are many free online learning resources and security consultants who provide these services.
- Set up a workplace physical violence policy and procedures. These ought to include clear instructions on what employees can report any concerns. Just as important as the method of canceling is an environment where all employees feel safe and supported. A danger that is caused in all workplaces, including law offices, is domestic physical violence spillover. When employees face domestic physical violence dangers the doctor has to feel safe enough to tell their manager about embarrassing, private matters.
- Provide employee assistance programs. Employee issues also arise from within a law practice. Recruiting should provide support programs to employees with disciplinary issues or personal problems. This type of support helps prevent acts of physical violence and helps create a stronger, healthier workplace.
- Develop risk and threat tests. When a threat by a client emerges or is identified, a law office needs a process to determine the likelihood and seriousness of the threat. A process that collects information, gathers and reviews evidence and weighs about warning signs is part of a good threat management system. Connections and relationships with local law enforcement and security professionals are paramount to risk analysis. Front desk personnel should be given descriptions of the threat with safety instructions should identified individuals arrive at legal issues firm.
- Utilize legal resources to increase employee protection. Workplace restraining orders and trespass orders can always be obtained. Misdemeanor charges such as telephone pestering, harassment or property damage can be levied to manufacture a paper trek for a threat, and the charges warn the individual not to harass legal professionals pending the trial. Many states also have a victim notification system that automatically calls any cell phone number once you were released from offender.
- Establish emergency response procedures. Should a threat ever be a reality, emergency response procedures help alleviate problems with a bad situation from becoming a complete devastation. A system that informs all employees, has escape and lockdown procedures and support things for emergency response personnel are all components of crisis management.
- Organize and communicate with nearby businesses. It is important nearby businesses are aware of potentially threatening, dangerous individuals. When a man curved on killing an attorney opens fire, anyone in the location can be a target. Not only can emergency management be matched up, but the monitoring of individuals and potential risks is increased through such community partners.
Law firms committed to workplace security ensure safe workplaces through the design of their facilities and the execution of accessible, sophisticated technology. They train lawyers and employees in basic security skills to help mitigate hostile encounters. Conscientious law firms provide support for employees in need and establish a place where their concerns can be exposed. Safe law firms establish and practice threat and emergency management procedures that are vital in maintaining a safe workplace. While shootings in law firms are rare, the much more common hostile encounters with clients are sometimes warning signs that needs to be taken seriously.