It’s snowing outside as I write this. In a slightly pathetic attempt at topicality, therefore, I am going to write a snow-themed post. If you’re unsure as to whether there is snow outside at the time of reading, you can find out here.
We lawyers like to be heroes. When everyone else leaves the office at midday (effectively creating the problem that they are trying to avoid, but that’s another story), we bravely stay behind to meet that important client deadline. WE WILL NOT BE BEATEN BY MERE WEATHER.
And I admit, I did a bit of that “look how busy I am while everyone else has a snow day” tweeting earlier on. I stayed in the office til 3.30, which was about three hours longer than most of the people I work with.
But that does some of my colleagues a disservice, because in an outsourcing company declaring a snow day is no easy matter.
My employer runs call centres for about 30 clients. Each of those contracts allows for “force majeure” events, whereby we are relieved from our obligations in exceptional circumstances.
But those provisions often require us to notify clients before declaring a force majeure event, and to take steps to maintain service. That means that we can’t just decide for ourselves to send people home, or to advise employees not to come in.
Some of those clients are reluctant to let us suspend services, because they are worried about losing revenue or upsetting their customers. And it’s a fact of outsourcing life that they will be more solicitous of the well-being of their own employees than of ours, and as a result will expect us to carry on while their in-house operations are suspended.
We also have services that for various reasons can’t be suspended. We have to find a way make those services carry on even if most of the employees haven’t made it in.
So a half dozen or so of my colleagues (including our general counsel) were still in the office when I left, ringing round clients and co-ordinating contingency activities. Even when they finally make it home, they’ll continue doing this throughout the evening.
And many more of our staff will still be at work manning those call centres that we can’t shut down. Some of them won’t be able to make it home, and will spend the night at work (this has happened a couple of times in the last few years, because of snow or floods).
So, yes, I stayed behind in the office for a couple of hours to meet my client’s deadline. But I’ll be watching The Apprentice on my sofa tonight while some of my colleagues take emergency calls or sleep in break rooms. It’s not me that’s the hero.