Nightmare before Christmas

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4 December 2013


Posted by Allison Wooddisse, head of practice compliance at Legal Futures Associate LexisNexis

Pucker up, baby: a gentle reminder from the COLP about Christmas party behaviour may be in order

On the 12 days of Christmas, my colleagues gave to me…

Twelve plumbers plumbing
Eleven partners missing
Ten lawyers leaping
Nine ladies twerking
Eight deadlines broken
Seven staff a-swooning
Six drunken minors
Five golden rings
Four broken bones
Three French pens
Two laptops lost
And the theft of a Christmas tree

So you’re coming to the end of your first year as COLP and things haven’t gone too badly so far, but don’t count your chickens (or geese) yet. Danger lies ahead – the Christmas season looms.

Now’s the time to earn your compliance officer stripes; let’s risk assess the joy out of Christmas, snuff out spontaneity and spread caution amongst your fellow man.

Twelve plumbers plumbing

Maybe I’m just unlucky, but I’ve been comprehensively flooded twice, the first time in a listed building with an ancient central heating system, the second in a large, all mod-cons purpose-built office.

It can happen to you but it doesn’t have to: think office maintenance, cold-weather protection and business continuity. And NEVER, EVER allow an equity partner to bleed his own radiator.

Eleven partners missing

And so it came to pass that the equity partners did go forth on their Christmas holidays, leaving their staff holding the (swaddling) baby. And their staff were much aggrieved and their clients were not impressed. Need I say more?

Ten lawyers leaping

Christmas is a time for self-reflection – beware the New Year resolution to find a better job. This year, make sure your valued staff feel valued, especially if you’re in the Dolomites while they’re at their desks.

Nine ladies twerking

… and inappropriate behaviour at the Christmas party generally. I’m not suggesting you e-mail a behaviour guide round the office but a gentle reminder to staff in team/department meetings won’t do any harm.

Eight deadlines broken

Will you have adequate staff cover over Christmas?

Check your limitation/key dates calendar now for deadlines between mid-December and early January. Make a concerted effort to meet those deadlines early. It’s bad enough working at Christmas without having to cover other peoples deadlines – and risky.

Seven staff a swooning

For ’tis the season of coughs, colds and flu. According to the Health & Safety Executive, sickness absence costs employers £495 a year in direct costs for every worker employed.

You can arrange flu jabs for your staff for as little as £6 a throw. The only way you’ll find out whether it’s worthwhile is to give it a go and then measure this year’s sickness absence against the last.

Also, and I realise this is contentious, can sickly staff work from home rather than spread their virus around?

Six drunken minors

No-one wants an irate father on the phone demanding to know why his 16-year-old daughter drank herself insensible at your Christmas party. Make sure you know which members of staff (including interns and work experience students) are under 18 and take appropriate steps to spoil their fun.

Five golden rings

Five unanswered phone calls from that corporate prospect you’ve been cultivating for months. They tested: you failed. See also Eleven partners absent and Seven staff a-swooning.

Four broken bones

I really wanted to do Four call girls, but it’s too risqué. So instead, I’ll remind you to vet any venues you’ve booked for Christmas events and beware:

  • The death trap dance floor – my particular favourite had a 10-inch gulley down the middle. The result? Total carnage.
  • Ice rinks and alcohol – do I really need to spell it out?

Three French pens

OK, so Montblanc pens are German, but they’re still expensive. So why are three associates accepting them as gifts on that African mine acquisition?

’Tis the season to remind staff (and partners!) of your gifts and hospitality policy.

Two laptops lost

It’s going to happen. Lost laptops and missing mobiles are a fact of life, especially at Christmas. Make sure yours are password protected, properly encrypted and, if possible, can be remotely wiped.

And the theft of a Christmas tree

For 364 days a year, the senior partner is sensible, sombre and serious. For one night only, he transforms into the Christmas Pimpernel; his mission to liberate the largest tree he can smuggle under his overcoat.

Leave this one alone. Some Christmas traditions are inviolate and, anyway, it’s good for staff morale.

Wise men and women

Compliance officers of England and Wales, I call on you to rise to the festive challenge:

12. Check your plumbing is in good order and keep safe the radiator allen key
11. Encourage some partners to work over Christmas
10. Make sure your valued staff aren’t getting restless
9. Communicate some basic behaviour guidelines
8. Formulate a strategy for hitting key dates with a skeleton staff
7. Think about how you can minimise and/or manage sickness absence
6. Guard your underage staff against the perils of alcohol
5. Make sure you can service existing and prospective key clients
4. Check out your events venues
3. Remind all staff of your gifts and hospitality policy
2. Protect laptops, phones and other mobile devices
1. Buy your senior partner a bigger coat

Do this and Christmas shall not defeat you.

Your reward shall be great indeed. Arise compliance officers of 2014, we salute you!



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