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How Lawyers Can Pursue Public Service While Making A Profit

Do You Really Want To Be A Public Interest Lawyer?

That’s the question that Sam Wright addressed in an Above the Law Blog (ATL) post. Wright explains, if you’re able to ignore underfunding, understaffing, and overwork, than public interest law practice is rife with opportunities. As a young gun, Wright points out, without any real-world experience, you’ll still be listened to, highly-respected even, for your JD degree.

This gives you power that associates in private practice firms only dream of during long, tedious doc review weekends.

Furthermore, if you decide to go into public service litigation, you’ll be in on the ground floor of making strategy decisions to which no Big Law first-year associate would normally be privy.

Finally, if you can safely say to yourself…

“I like thinking on my feet! Meeting a new client on the day of a hearing sounds exhilarating. It’s fun to go head-to-head with an opponent in a setting full of arcane rules, even if it involves plenty of tedium, and I actually like Saturday-morning working groups. Besides, putting up with all this will allow me to make a real difference in the world.”

…than Wright writes, congrats! You’ve definitely got a future as a public service lawyer.

But, what if a life dedicated to public service doesn’t tempt you? Or, what if you believe in helping boost the economy through the protection of private firms?

As a lawyer in private practice, it’s important to remember that you can still give back through your firm’s client services.

Anticipating client needs, even before they’re expressed, helps your clients’ small business, family, or employees succeed and prosper. Does the neighborhood bakery, which your firm represents, know how to properly file its taxes? Does it understand the numerous exemptions it may qualify for?

What about that hotel chain, fleeced by its inexperienced, sloppy contractor, is it now having trouble qualifying for a loan to continue its expansion?

Anticipating client needs is a great way lawyers can aid the local economy.

It also, selfishly, glues clients to your firm and builds the kind of client loyalty you can put in the bank.

In fact, creating true client loyalty is one of the most powerful and reliable ways to build a strategic, sustainable advantage. Truly loyal clients are less price sensitive, more willing to forgive your small foibles and—most importantly—largely immune to competitive entreaties from the firm across the street or across the continent.

Consider circulating a free newsletter to your clients with information pertinent to their business. Make sure your clients—even long dormant ones—remember that your firm is at the ready for additional services.

You don’t have to enter public service to make a difference (and a profit) as a lawyer.

Take the Center for Competitive Management’s information-packed webinar will explore how to fine-tune service touchpoints to keep clients happy and turn them into loyal clients, starting at intake.

The course, “From Intake to Attachment: Building Client Loyalty through Anticipatory Client Service,” is available online Thursday, March 24, 2016, at 2:00PM Eastern time.

In just 75 minutes, you will learn practical methods to customize client-interactions to make them more anticipatory and client-friendly; including how to:


-Add predictability and sensitivity to every firm service level
-Get ahead of the issues clients face before they develop a negative impression of the firm
-Reflect that your firm is on the client’s side in every situation
-Offer speedier service, without sacrificing quality
-Discuss and appropriately present pricing information in a way that clients will appreciate and understand
-Make each client feel unique and earning their loyalty to the firm
-Employ firm wide routines that reflect a culture of common sense and sensitivity


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Can You Name The Smartest Person In The Room? The Surprisingly Different Way Men & Women Answer & Law Firm Gender Bias

Time and time again, women are underestimated. Whether in the classroom or a professional office space, the same, sad statistic remains intact. Women aren’t considered equal peers and colleagues.

Let’s take a recent study conducted by anthropologist Dan Grunspan. While teaching undergraduate students, Grunspan noticed a shocking and persistent trend. His male undergraduate students assumed the other men in the class knew more about the course material than their female counterparts. What’s more, this remained true even when the female students were earning better grades.

“The pattern just screamed at me,” said Grunspan to Danielle Paquette for the Washington Post article, “The remarkably different answers men and women give when asked who’s the smartest in the class.

Determined to apply quantitative methods to his qualitative assessment, Grunspan and his colleagues at the University of Washington set up a study to measure the degree of this gender bias in the classroom.

The researchers conducted surveys of roughly 1,700 students attending three biology courses. In defense of Grunspan’s observations, the results of the study concluded that men in these courses did, in fact, consistently award each other more credit than their equally-knowledgable female classmates.

This bias amounted to three-quarters of a GPA point, according to the study, published in the journal PLOS ONE. This means, while two students—one male, one female—earned the same “A” grade, male students would consider the male student an “A” student, but the female student a “B” performer. Female students, however, did not possess the same bias.

“Something under the conscious is going on,” Grunspan said to the Washington Post.

“For 18 years, these [young men] have been socialized to have this bias.”

It stands to reason that if this bias is continuous and persistent among undergraduates, it didn’t just disappear in law school or at the law firm. While this conclusion relies on certain assumptions—that men don’t mature later in life or that they don’t award more credit to their female colleagues with experience, for example—it does provide fodder to think about how you might treat female colleagues in the workplace.

Stephanie Haladner, a former Clifford Chance said to the UK Telegraph, “There is an unconscious bias that is stopping women from getting promoted in law firms. We have to look at a culture change. The majority of law firms are acknowledging that they have an issue and would like to take steps to make a change.”

“When it comes to unconscious bias, it means [law firms] recruit and advance people in their own image.”

When name partners are all male—this means promoting other men. When senior associates are male, this means assigning other men to work on the most important cases.

When you need a second opinion, to whom do you go to? When considering two like-level associates, one male and one female, does your firm unconsciously reward one over the other?

“One other issue for women that constantly comes up is that women tend not to be as good at promoting themselves within an organization,” continues Haladner.

While this may be a valid explanation for why women cab be overlooked professionally, it’s no excuse for your firm to perpetuate a well-documented bias.

Go back to the numbers. Like Professor Grunspan, take a look at the pattern within your own firm. If there are fewer women at the top, it may be time to consider whether or not this is due to over-crediting men by male management.



For more law firm management and concrete HR tips, take one of The Center for Competitive Management’s webinars here.

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A Law Firm’s Guide To Record Retention & Apple’s Fight Against Hacking Killer’s Phone By Court Order

It could be argued that nothing changed American culture more than the cell phone. Just look at TV shows, cartoons, news articles that talk about Millennials, perpetually on their phones. At work, policies about cell phones must be erected. And, now, it’s a point of concern for privacy when it comes to search and seizure by police.

“I had a case where a young man was arrested for videotaping his friend being arrested outside a club in NYC. Police seized his phone. We were afraid that once they possessed the phone, the video would mysteriously disappear since it showed police acting without probable cause and then arresting my client just for videotaping the incident,” Toni Messina in the article, “Criminally Yours: Cops Got Your Phone?” for the Above The Law blog.

“Luckily, because we were dealing with an inexperienced prosecutor, we were able to go One Police Plaza ourselves to get the phone back so it went through no intermediaries, supervisors, or other enforcement personnel. The video was intact, and now forms the basis of a civil law suit for wrongful arrest.”

Messina points out that no matter the level of crime for which you are arrested, police can search your person, your things. Sure, police are supposed to have probable cause, but as Messina’s story previously points out, “probable cause” is relative.

Once you’re actually in custody, your rights to guard information on your cell phone private erode even more. Once arrested, the police can get a search warrant to search the contents of your cell phone—including all those fancy apps with personal data you used for online banking, dating, and working. Your photos and videos are now free game for viewing.

All this with just a simple order from a judge.

Which is exactly what happened with the recent federal judge’s order forcing Apple to help the FBI break into the iPhone of San Bernardino killer Syed Farook. Except Apple CEO Tim Cook opposed the order.

In a letter, Cook wrote, “In the wrong hands, this software [to hack the iPhone]—which does not exist today—would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.”

Cook’s letter emphasized that government overreached by asking for “a backdoor to the iPhone,” reports Greg Botelho, Lorenza Brascia, and Michael Martinez in “Anger, praise for Apple for rebuffing FBI over San Bernardino killer’s phone,” an article for CNN.

How much can the government compel companies to give up? What about citizens?

“All this is why compelling Apple to provide the key to open their phone is tricky,” concludes Messina in the Above The Law article.

“No one’s in favor of terrorism, but that doesn’t mean we should succumb to greater police surveillance, privacy invasion, and forced revelation of data that would otherwise be confidential in our lives.”

This leads—even in a just a small way—to your law firm’s personal records.

Do you know how long to keep records, how they should be stored, and who should have access to various files?

Consistent management of documents and data reduces litigation exposure and regulatory criticism. However, conquering the challenges you encounter in managing, retaining, and disposing information on the road to legal compliance is more complicated than ever.

In fact, as the number of laws and risks related to governing records management continues to increase, it becomes even more paramount that organizations and their counsel brush up on its obligations—legal and moral.

Furthermore, with all companies under scrutiny for how they treat the privacy of employees or clients, law firms should think twice about its practices.

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” Messina reminds us of the old adage.

“Privacy is too valuable a right, and the fishing expedition [by the government] such a search would entail [by Apple] isn’t worth the price.”


Learn more about the complex universe of document retention rules and practicalities in C4CM‘s webinar, “Save It, Shred It, Delete It? Corporate Counsel’s Guide to Record Retention,” on Thursday, March 17, 2016 from 2:00 PM To 3:15 Eastern Standard time.

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Embarrassing Networkinging Stories & Tips For Law Firm Managers Looking To Increase Business

Is your firm considering membership in a law firm network? If you’re already a member, how can your firm achieve more value through your participation?

Formal legal networks, such as Lex Mundi/World Services Group, have long been viewed as advantageous for independent law firms seeking to (1) extend global reach, (2) increase business opportunities, and (3) gain a competitive edge.

But are they worth the cost of membership?

Some firms don’t think so, yet many swear by the enhanced credibility and referrals that membership brings.

But whether your firm is looking to gain clients or associates, networking is only effective if done right. Using a few examples of networking gone wrong—thanks to Intuit QuickBase’s 10 Most Embarrassing Neworking Stories—we have a few guidelines to help:

Make yourself known with a unique introduction.

The problem with networking events is that most people come away without hundreds of business cards and almost no memory of who offered them. Unfortunately, if you’re a Mike, Mark, Melissa, or Mary, common names mean you might be quickly marginalized.

This is why it’s so important to introduce yourself with an interesting anecdote. Make yourself noticed—in a good way:

“I attended a multi-day conference that provided all meals for attendees in an effort to have everyone network during said meals. Breakfast each morning was held in an area accessed by walking down a flight of stairs. I was headed down the stairs, looking into the room to see who was already at breakfast and thinking about who I might eat and chat with. I lost my footing and rolled/bounced all the way down to the breakfast area with my laptop tumbling behind me. Of course, everyone stopped eating and talking and started gasping and staring. Everyone knew who I was after that!”

A trip and fall situation may get you noticed, but for the wrong things. Try to introduce yourself in a way that get’s you remembered in a positive light. For example, if you like to rock climb in your free time, introducing yourself as the 3rd year associate who climbs rocks, characterizes you as somebody willing to take taking calculated risks. It’s also something small, but singular that other people will certainly remember.

Pay attention and remember details of other professionals.

When you’re meeting tons of professionals, sometimes it’s hard to pay attention. While somebody’s pitching themselves to you, it’s quite likely you’ve spent a few seconds dozing off, starting to thing about what’s for dinner, or becoming acutely aware how warm the room is.

Instead, be an active listener. When somebody introduces themselves, repeat their name back to them. “Hi Paul, I’m Patricia. Nice to meet you.” Or, when they mention a specific activity, follow-up with a pertinent question pertaining to it.

If you’re not good with names, don’t risk calling somebody by the wrong one. Here’s why.

“I am very bad at names. I often recognize people, but can’t remember why. I was at lunch one day with a coworker who usually works at another building, and I said to her something about how she knew So-and-So (an older portly gentleman), who was sitting at a table right next to us. She turned and looked, and said, ‘That’s not So-and-So.’ The gentleman, who had heard me, also turned and said, ‘I’m not So-and-So.’ I had mixed him up with another older, portly gentleman. I was greatly embarrassed, especially because he seemed to find the mix-up insulting. From then on out, every time I saw this guy, I made sure to say his name, repeatedly, so that he would know I knew who he was. But a year and a half later, I found out I had still been calling him by the wrong name.” 

Err on being politically correct. 

As in the previous example, it could be said that it’s best to err on being correct—don’t use a person’s name if you’re not sure of it. But, it’s definitely best to be politically correct in a room of professionals. Don’t use networking as the time to try out a new potentially offensive joke. Politics, religion, and personal trials and tribulations are always off the table.

“I signed up for a mentoring program to be matched up with a local executive. I was matched with a guy, and we went to lunch. When I let him know I was pregnant, since it might affect scheduling during the 6-month program, he let me know how much kids ruined his marriage and his wife’s career. Awesome, mentor.”

As a more experienced professional, don’t treat every younger associate as chance to pass on personal advice (that’s what grandkids are for).

Ask questions—lots of questions!

Finally, when networking, it’s important to ask lots of questions. Asking questions is a way to signal your interest in the other person, as well as a method for gathering more information about their professional expertise. Of course, like anything, it’s important to ask the right questions.

“Our bank was in the process of merging with another bank. During the merger process, all the teller managers had to attend meetings with people from other banks going through the same process… I started talking to the woman who was running the meeting. She was the equivalent of a district manager and was around my age (early 20s). I was really impressed with the fact that she was at this stage of her career at such a young age, because I was aspiring to rise to the same level. I asked her how she got started, what were her responsibilities, etc. During our talk, she mentioned how she was thinking of going back to finish up school (she said ‘school’ not ‘degree’). Stupid me asks, “Oh? High school or college?’ Thankfully she just said ‘college’ and moved the conversation to another topic. Even though she didn’t acknowledge my gaffe with so much as a blink, I still was praying a sinkhole would open up below me.” 

Whether you’re 12, 22, 32, 42 and above, referring to age is a tricky issue. If you’re at all confused about a person’s age or status, ask more roundabout questions to get at your answer. Instead of “high school or college,” in the above example (which is not as far-fetched an error as it may first appear), the networking teller should have asked, “are you looking at any specific schools?” or “how much more education would you like to get?”

When it comes to age, never make assumptions.

Networking can be a great tool for law firms and attorneys to meet new clients or hire new talent. However, first impressions are powerful. Make sure your firm’s representatives are well versed in the basics of holding productive conversations.

Need some more concrete advice about how your firm and its associates can start to network productively? Take C4CM’s webinar, “Maximizing Legal Networks to Build Relationships, Increase Business and Expand Firm Reach,” on Thursday, February 25, 2016 at 2:00 PM Eastern.

This information-packed webinar led by a power-house panel of experts offers step by step guidance surrounding:

  • Potential advantages and disadvantages of legal network membership,
  • Best practices for choosing a network that best fits your firm’s goals and objectives, and
  • Practical methods to get your money’s worth once your firm signs on the dotted line. 

During this comprehensive program, you will learn:

  • How to increase the volume and quality of inbound and outbound referrals
  • Ways to get the most value for your association/network spend
  • How to use network membership to build better working relationships and win clients
  • Global advantages and disadvantages for firms as members of legal networks
  • How to retain your firm’s brand distinction, while maximizing broader branding opportunities


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Be Your Firm’s Rising Star (& Firm Productivity Tips)

If opportunity knocks—let it in! But for the rest of your work days, which seem to drag on, there are only the opportunities you make for yourself.

We’re told to be obsessed with productivity. On Wednesday, the height of the week, it’s easy to be obsessed with productivity. But Fridays, well, that’s another story.

But, what can we do specifically at law firms to improve productivity? Set the mood. Shut the door. Play calming music. Set a timer and work in 15-minute increments to keep totally focused.

At least, those are among the suggestions in an article by Forbes, “Five Ways To Be Amazing At Work,” by Steve Siebold, a corporate consultant and author of 177 Mental Toughness Secrets of The World Class.

Productivity is often about time management. Allocate a certain amount of time to a task and then disconnect. Unplug the phone and put “do not disturb” on your office door. The fewer interruptions the better the creative flow.

The second step to being amazing at work is to solve problems says Siehold.

This is an easy one. At work, keep a running tally of problems at the firm and within case matters. Create a two-column page with one side “problems” and the other “solutions.” It’s amazing how such a short exercise can go a long way in solving problems with law firm management practices or with cases in particular.

Third, take risks. For law firms, this isn’t necessarily the best advice. Of course, risk taking can pay off. But, it can also backfire. Luckily, there’s a simple adjective that can solve this problem. Take calculated risks.

And, take calculated risks on people. Give young associates a chance to shine.

“The great ones never play it safe when it comes to leading their teams through change, knowing their job is to serve as a guide and coach,” writes Siehold. 

Fourth, have a strong work ethic.

For lawyers, it’s important to have a strong ethic in general. Don’t forget the right and wrong of cases you’re trying to win. Dedication to your work and believing in its ethic will go a long way to increasing your passion and productivity.

Finally, find a coach. For law firms, a coach should be a mentor, whether it’s a senior associate or law firm partner. Mentorship is an important part of the law.

“If a person works hard and gets a pay check he has a job. But if a person works hard, gets a pay check, and learns a new skill, she has a career,” writes Joseph Folkman for the HBR Blog in the article, “Are You Creating Disgruntled Employees?

In any business, it pays to let people make mistakes. And, if you establish a mentorship program, it’s likely your firm will gradually see less and less of them.

With proper training, your employees can learn to communicate and cope–with confidence–during moments of both success and failure. Not to mention that, in the future, your firm will gain good leaders and good lawyers.

For more ideas about how to increase productivity at your firm, take C4CM’s audio course, “The Productive, Profitable Law Firm: How Agile & Lean Practices Can Reduce Costs, Increase Quality and Grow Profits,” on Thursday, February 11, 2016, from 2:00 PM Eastern to 3:15 Eastern.

In addition to real-life examples of how firms have used Lean/Agile methodologies to improve efficiency, you’ll learn how to:

  • Identify and analyze your firm’s processes, and make incremental process improvements that can improve your bottom line
  • Develop methods to complete routine tasks quickly
  • Identify the bottlenecks that cause delays
  • Use ‘Increments’ and ‘iterations’ for improved legal productivity
  • Identify Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that your firm should be examining (beyond billable hours)


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When Winter Storms Wreak Havoc On Employee Commute, Why Law Firms Don’t Have To Suffer

This weekend into Monday, the New England area underwent a bombogenesis… now there’s a term you don’t see everyday.

The term generally refers to a storm whose minimum pressure drops at least 24 millibars in 24 hours, according to meteorologists; in layman’s words? The storm was really strong and rapidly intensifying!

Snow and strong winds were proof of the bombogenesis that bombarded most of New England yesterday. Winter Storm Mars created blizzard conditions in a large part of Massachusetts, covering the city of Orleans with 10 inches of snowfall. However, Mars did not spare other States of its tempest, hitting Rhode Island, New York, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Maine.

New York’s JFK Airport cancelled 50 flights; LaGuardia airport cancelled more than 300 flights; and airports and Boston and New Jersey faced extensive delays and cancellations, according to

Hundreds of public schools were cancelled on Friday and Connecticut alone witnessed 258 car crashes. If your daily commute was already slow, let’s face it, Friday and Monday were the worst.

All these reasons and more are why your firm should pay for your employees’ commute. When it’s cold or stormy outside, the last thing employees want to do is head to the office. In fact, the winter months most employees would pay to stay in bed.

But, with the right incentives, your firm can attract happy, productive associates to your benefit.

Retain the employees you value most.

Between heavy snowfall and gas prices, employees find it difficult to justify a long commute to work. What was once an easy freeway drive for 45 minutes can now cost employees as much as $20 extra per day.

The ability to live in safe, cheap suburb, coupled by the additional time necessary to drive to work is enough to drive away your best talent.

In order to retain the employees you value most, offer to pay their commute to work. It serves as real-money savings as well as good-will gesture.

Move your office to cheaper real estate.

If your firm is headed into the black, it may be time to move house. But finding more affordable real estate may lead to a loss in willing workers.

With the right location, the difference in rent should more than cover an offer to pay employee commuter costs.

Changing offices could be just what the doctor ordered to revive your ailing accounting. Travel stipends will limit the internal grumbling.

Incentivize your employees to work weekends.

Snowday Friday? Schools cancelled? No problem. Close up shop and move meetings to Saturday. Have the firm pick up the tab for food and transport. Friday can be spent with the kids who are home from school and Saturday will make up for lost time on the company dime. That’s something employees can stomach.

Allow the occasional telecommuting.

Bringing home proprietary or confidential client information is a real concern. It’s why a lot of firms force employees to be at the office for all casework. In these instances, use transport stipends to substitute for telecommuting options.

Provide monetary compensation—and get creative—for traveling to and from the office with extra dispensation for rush hour, after-hours, or weekends.

At the same time, understand that some weather-related (or child-related) emergencies just can’t be helped. Don’t throw a fuss when employees call out for the occasional telecommute.

Forbidding telecommuting totally will likely be ill-received by your staff.

Find a reason for hope (and savings) to transform snow days into productive, morale-raising days. Your firm, and its employees, can benefit equally from seasonal changes and tropical storms.


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Popping Pills: America’s Worst Epidemic & Legally Addressing The Misuse Of Prescription Drugs At Work

Although the United States makes up about 5 percent of the world’s population, it consumes more than 75 percent of the world’s prescription drugs, according to the 2011 UN World Drug Report. This statistic may bring up a few names from your childhood: Elvis Presley, Jim Morrison, Judy Garland; or, more recently, Michael Jackson, Health Ledger, Chris Farley.

But, famous actors and singers are not the only victims of prescription drug abuse. It’s the 16-year old student who got addicted to pain pills after a surgery, the suburban father mixing a dangerous cocktail of painkillers and tranquilizers, or a Michigan mother hooked on her daughter’s Adderall prescription.

A new documentary takes a sobering look at what some call America’s worst epidemic. Prescription drug addiction affects men, women and children of all walks of life. Called “’Prescription Thugs”, this movie is director Chris Bell’s follow-up to his last documentary, “Bigger, Stronger, Faster,” which showed the harrowing role of performance-enhancing drugs in sports.

“The subject kind of picked me,” explains Bell to’s Dr. Manny Alvarez.

“My older brother died from a prescription drug, basically, an overdose—his body gave out from all the prescription drugs he was doing. I wanted to find some answers why that happened to him.”

At risk of revealing spoilers, at one point Bell reveals his own silent struggle with prescription painkiller addiction.

“I was never an addict, I was never addicted to anything. I was always somebody who was into sports. I was a power lifter… I was excited to go to the gym every day,” Bell said.

“But once I was hurt, and on these painkillers, everything started going slowly in reverse.”

But seeking help is not easy. At one point, Bell was taking up to 20 to 30 pain pills per day before he considered reaching out.

“It’s something that you have to come to terms with yourself, it’s something that you have to want to quit and want to get off of,” Bell said.

Prescription drug abuse is the nation’s fastest-growing drug problem and is now classified as an epidemic by the CDC. As many as 52 million Americans, over the age of 12, have used prescription drugs non-medically in their lifetime. Even more shocking, 1 million people have used them non-medically in the past month.

The use and abuse of medications in the workplace is a serious issue. Yet unlike illicit drugs, for which most U.S. employers can test easily and legally, prescription medications present a number of challenges to organizations.

For one, the mere presence of these substances in a drug test does not necessarily constitute an offense, unlike with illegal drugs. And many employees using these medications are protected by the ADA, which limits an organization’s ability to question its employees’ use of such drugs.

This is a thorny area, where federal (ADA and FMLA) and state laws collide. Unfortunately, most employers do not have the fortitude and risk tolerance to enter the storm, even when they know it’s a major liability.

Like Bell and his own addiction, awareness is often the first step. Protect your employees—and your firm’s liability—by taking The Center For Competitive Management’s webinar, “Popping Pills: Legally Addressing Employee Use & Misuse of Prescription Medications in the Workplace,” on Tuesday, February 23, 2016 from 2:00 PM to 3:15 PM Eastern.

This online course explores best practice strategies for handling this challenging situation both tactfully and legally. You’ll also get the answers to such need-to-know questions as:

  • How should employers address the use of prescription medications by employees in their drug and alcohol policies (if at all)?
  • What should an employer do if an employee cannot perform the job safely while using prescription medications?
  • Can employers conduct drug testing for prescription medications and what are the pitfalls of doing so?
  • What are an employer’s obligations when employees become addicted to prescription medications?
  • Can employees be drug tested periodically after completing drug rehabilitation?
  • Should medical marijuana be treated like other prescription medications?
  • Must employers tolerate the use of medical or recreational marijuana in the states where it is legal?

“It’s tough, it’s a disease where it’s a behavior problem… it’s a brain chemistry problem… and the only way to fix it is to work on those behaviors and sort of modify those behaviors,” explains Bell.

Like people, a law firm firm must acknowledge what’s at stake before it can seek help. Make that happen for your employees today.



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