Uh Oh! Judge Holds Himself In Contempt Of Court After Cell Phone Rings (& Lawyers Learn To Lead By Example)

Upholding the law means upholding justice.

According to ancient philosophers, like Plato, a just man is a man who gives the precise equivalent of what he has received. With extortionist billable hours, lawyers these days aren’t often the pillars of equivalency.

But, there still exist some legal professionals who can lead the rest of us by example.

For example, Shearman & Sterling
understand what it means to be a public servant. Although firm partners require each lawyer in its U.S. offices to spend at least 25 hours on pro bono work annually, the New York office goes above and beyond.

According to the New York Law Journal, Shearman & Sterling’s 340 New York-based attorneys have logged over 27,000 hours in pro bono practice from 2009 to 2011. It’s nice to know justice can prevail without a high premium for the wrongly convicted of murder, veterans fighting for benefits, or labor rights of pizza delivery workers.

But, it’s not just about what you do, it’s about what you don’t do.

Lawyers are always held to the highest standards in court. So, when a cellphone rang during a prosecutor’s closing argument in a domestic violence trial in Michigan, the judge held the culprit in contempt. The problem was, the culprit was the judge himself.

Chief Ionia District Judge Raymond Voet recently bought a new phone and, as it turns out, didn’t turn it off properly before court.

“I got very embarrassed, and I’m sure my face turned red,” Voet told MLive.com, according to Martha Nell for the ABA Journal.

“I thought it would never happen to me.”

The same judge posted signs posted outside his courtroom warning the public that individuals face a $25 fine if it goes off during a hearing. Luckily the judge is a stickler for justice for all, so Voet held himself contempt of court and paid the fine during the next recess.

As a law firm manager, you too can lead by example.

When it comes to discipline, law firm managers should take the reigns. No excuses for top management for the violation of human resource policies.

When it comes to productivity, leading by example pays in dividends.

In fact, “It Pays to Be Optimistic,” reports Jennifer Robison for the Gallup Business Journal.  Recent research shows that optimistic managers do a better job at driving productivity in the workplace whereas pessimistic managers pave the way for the worst by expecting it.

Leading by example through optimism doesn’t just help your bottom line, but it also helps the health of your human capital.

Attitudes—like productivity and habits—are contagious. Start conducting pro bono suits and your colleagues will follow. Be cheerful in the office and watch the contagion. Made a mistake in a meeting? That’s ok, forgive and forget yourself as readily as the follies of others.

See, it’s amazing how fairness in business policy or leadership comes down to a simple doctrine of treating others the way you’d like to be treated (or visa versa in the case of one judge!).

Some clichés and successful management practices are here to stay. In law especially, just leadership depends on them.

To learn more, attend a C4CM First Friday Event, “Team Management: 6 Key Leadership Elements that Pump-Up Efficiency and Productivity“, a live, interactive telephone course to help your law firm managers lead by example.

-WB

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