Legal training changes the way you think, not always in ways that are beneficial to your family and friends, for example:
- Dinner conversation with lawyer friends revolves around preparing for worst case scenarios, for example, why it’s a good idea to keep an inflatable raft in your office, just in case…
- You unconsciously keep track of the time it takes you to wash dishes and fold laundry, in .1 hour increments.
- You are not above cross-examining your three-year old who is screaming for a cookie in the morning to find out whether she has seen anyone eat a cookie for breakfast, as you suspect your husband has been secretly bribing her with cookies so that she will eat her main meal.
- You obsessively pick up friends’ and families’ backpacks and lunch bags off the floor, as the loose straps are just torts waiting to happen.
- You flip out whenever you hear a reporter refer to the Supreme Court of Canada as the “high court”.
However, legal training enhances the ability of a workplace investigator to conduct a neutral, accurate, useful and prompt investigation by providing the investigator with the skills to:
- conduct every step of the investigation in a fair and impartial manner – from the initial contact with the complainant, respondent and witnesses, to the conduct of the interviews, to the writing of the report;
- interview the complainant, respondent and witnesses using open-ended, non-leading questions, but at the same time be able to seek clarification and explore inconsistencies;
- assess the credibility of the witnesses, by assessing each witness’ story for internal consistency as well as consistency with the other evidence;
- determine whether the evidence meets the threshold of the relevant legal standard, for example, the definition of discrimination or harassment under human rights legislation, or the test for cause for dismissal without notice;
- conduct a prompt investigation and provide a report in a timely manner, thereby avoiding the potential harm caused by unaddressed allegations of workplace misconduct.
Stay tuned for common mistakes people make in drafting workplace bullying and harassment policies.