Is Handling Medical and Family Leave Really That Difficult for Firms?

This one is hard to believe.  Above The Law recently reported on a law firm that took the “opportunity” to remind its attorneys that being on medical or family leave does not mean what it implies —- that the lawyer has temporarily LEFT the law firm to deal with serious needs that require attention and can be life-threatening.  As in, those lawyers have departed the firm, and the firm must figure out a way to deal with this temporary circumstance.

The communique in question, from a law practice co-chair, stated clearly that there is enough time in any day for lawyers on leave to check e-mail and respond as required.  Yes, you read that correctly.  On leave does not mean left.  Really?  Really!

It seems to have been settled long ago, in 1993 to be precise, that the Medical and Family Leave Act provided for LEAVE.  It could be interpreted as “leave me alone for awhile” because I have a serious situation to deal with— either of the medical or family variety — that the law considers important enough to be protected.  And since the enactments of that law, firms have been dealing with leave situations by devising simple systems to reroute inquiries and other matters directed to attorneys on leave to those who are not on leave.  Period.  Full stop.

Until now, I guess, when the absurdities of present day life in general are working their way into law firms and managers who should know better.  And, as pointed out in the article, that is not only bad for the individual lawyers, and for the law firms, it is also bad for clients.

Fortunately, for law firm managers who remain clueless, the article provides simple recommendations for how to handle matters affecting lawyers on leave.  It is not rocket science.

As I often have written and said, lawyers are better than this.  It is time they acted like it.  Here is the article for your reading displeasure.


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