file5721298196911The entire legal community was shook by last week’s tragic event that took place in a local law office. Mistaking the office receptionist/clerk for his attorney, a disgruntled client marched into the office and shot him dead, leading to this criminal complaint.  We extend our deepest sympathies to the members of this law practice, and also to the victim’s family.

Attorneys may not always consider law office disasters beyond the context of missed deadlines or document production mishaps. In truth, the legal profession is pitted alongside people at their most emotionally fragile and volatile moments, creating actual threats to physical safety.  Tragic events over the past years have made us all aware of the need for courthouse security, both in the Twin Cities metro area and outstate Minnesota. We may not always realize that the need for safety might go beyond the courthouse doors. At the same time, it is impossible to predict all the ways that one’s safety might be compromised. It is unlikely that most lawyers would have expected a disaster like last week’s event in their own offices.

So what could or should attorneys do to prevent such situations? (Does a law office really need a SuperAmerica-style plexiglass service window?) Unfortunately, it is impossible to predict and prepare for every possible emergency. (Read “Is Safety an Illusion?” from this issue of the Montana Lawyer.)  At the same time, it’s still worth considering the possibilities and discussing them with colleagues and staff. (The agitated gunman scenario is fresh in mind, but also consider a fire, tornado, or security breach.) You may want to review your client relations policy to make sure it addresses clients who may become angry and violent.   Also check out the chapter “Office Security and Emergency Procedures,” in Law Office Policy & Procedures Manual  (CLE 2011).  Here are some additional suggestions from the New Hampshire Bar Association.

 

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