Take Your Daughter to Work Day is held on the third Thursday of April each year. This year, that meant that the average age in your workplace probably took a sharp dive last Thursday, April 24. Like other participating organizations, our office hosted approximately 25 youngsters for a “day in the law.” Our Human Resources Director does a fanastic job with these events, and, in usual form, had a well-organized series of activities planned.
One of the morning events, following a “light breakfast” of donut holes, etc., was for an attorney from each Practice Group to talk briefly about the kind of work they do. I was asked to speak on behalf of the Employment Law Group and was happy to do so. But a little back-up never hurt anyone, so I asked my colleague, Michael Stafford, to join me.
On a side note for the event organizers, don’t pass over the males in the group when it comes to kids’ events! Mike was about the most enthusiastic speaker I’ve seen and a real natural with the children. He told them (in kid-speak) that we represent employers and businesses; that we get involved if someone is going to get fired or if someone doesn’t get paid like they should. He also talked about School Law, which makes up a large part of Mike’s practice.
Then, suddenly, it was my turn. Mike, was, by this time, in the middle of the “U” part of the U-shaped conference table, surrounded by a sea of children glued to his every word. Meanwhile, I hadn’t left the shore and was still standing at the front of the room, mystified by Mike’s ability to captivate.
Mike whips around towards the front of the room and extends his hand like a magician’s assistant trying to draw the crowd’s attention to the stage for the big finale. He says, “Why don’t you go ahead and tell them some more about what we do.”
I love public speaking. No, really, it’s true. I love teaching and giving seminars and presenting to groups of every size. But for this, I was not prepared. I had no idea how to explain employment discrimination to a room of 9-12 year olds. Admittedly, I stumbled for a minute, at a total loss for words. But what I finally did say, though, was probably more insightful to me than to the audience members. It was from-the-heart and unrehearsed:
What we do in the Employment Law Group is to make sure that the workplace is a good place to be. Our job, at the end of the day, is to make sure that everyone plays nice. We try to show people how to respect each other and be nice to one another, even though we are all different in a lot of ways. We want people to learn how to respect those differences so the workplace can be a great place to go every day. That’s what we do.
After I finished, some of the other lawyers who had come to speak nodded their heads in agreement. I thought, yeah, that really is exactly what I do. We guide our clients to make the workplace free of discrimination. We counsel clients on how to pay employees properly and fairly. And we’re called when an employee is doing more harm than good and the client wants our advice on the best way to proceed. You might say that we work hard to prevent our clients from being sued. Or, you might say, we try to make sure that the workplace is a good place to be. That seems to sum it up pretty well.