Merlin likes to hang out in Ben Staplin’s law office at FisherZucker in Philadelphia while his guardian works on the firm’s 200 or so FDD updates and renewals.
Lane Fisher is no dog whisperer. In fact, he was pretty vocal—talking at a rabid clip, hands waving—when the young lawyers in his office started showing up at work with their dogs to help get them through franchise registration season—an intense period that lasts from January through the end of April.
“We have more pee pads in the office now than legal pads,” Fisher whined. He suspects the other senior partner of FisherZucker in Philadelphia, Jeff Zucker, is a tad bit more sympathetic, since he likes dogs and he and his wife have been known to foster abandoned litters of newborn kittens.
“I’ve never had a dog,” Fisher grouses, “I don’t like it when they lick my stuff (he means his personal belongings, like his desk or shoes) or their stuff (he means, well you know what he means).”
Partner Bill Graefe was the first to test the culture with his pup, Wellington Justice, Esq. To ensure the 7-lb. Boston terrier felt at home, Graefe brought in a dog-sized Murphy bed that folds down at naptime. The co-workers travel to and from work on a Vespa with Wellington in a doggie backpack. (Wellington’s entitled to the Esq. in his name, Graefe reasons, because he, too, has put in the hours.)
Next came, the smaller of Associate Benjamin Staplin’s two pugs, who sits in a fenced-off area in his office. Fisher says that when he asked Staplin how he keeps the dog quiet during client phone calls, Staplin just shrugged and replied it was easy because the first few minutes of the phone call they all talk baby talk to the dog.
Kristina Harvilla is getting her work checked by her canine companion (don’t worry, clients, it was a posed picture).
By the time Kristen Harvilla brought in her puppy, whose current size is already somewhere between a sheep and an elephant, Fisher says he had rolled over.
It’s a proven fact that dogs make people more productive, Graefe says, and coworkers benefit from their calming presence. “They help people reset,” he says, adding he has to give Zucker and Fisher kudos for allowing employees to have a nontraditional workplace, especially in the button-down world of business law. And it beats having video gaming or napping pods, Fisher admits.
Once May rolls around and the extra long hours of updating FDDs and filings are over for the year, he’s not sure whether the dog days will continue into summer. But even a dog Scrooge would be hard pressed to draw a line in the carpet—even a potentially stained carpet he paid for. A young lawyer who interviewed for a job with the firm called from the train on her way home to say she accepted. “She said, ‘I just felt like it was the right place to work,’” Fisher says, a bit conflicted.
Expecting to bring your dog to work shouldn’t be a surprise for management, he admits, because Millennials are a different workforce. When he started the firm, all the lawyers wanted were their own office. Now they all want to work at home—and they don’t want to wear a suit jacket, he complains. Fisher’s OK with no suit jacket, but please no dog-walking clothes at work. (Dogs, on the other hand, like wearing jackets. If you don’t believe me, just check out the streets of New York when it looks like rain.)
At 37, Graefe is quick to point out that he falls in between the senior partners and the millennials, a rather fortuitous spot, he says, since when either group is complaining about the other, he can join in.
Ironically, next door to FisherZucker is a doggy daycare—which is expensive, according to Graefe —and Fisher has a perfect view from his window of the most squirted on light pole in the city. He watched one day as a man grabbed the pole to steady himself. “I though, buddy, if you only knew,” he sighs.