If you have a “typical” job these days you spend at least 40 hours a week at work. If you’re a young lawyer, you’re probably spending a lot more than 40 hours a week doing work, and those hours are not just spent at “work” they are spent “in the office.” With so much time spent in the office, it’s easy to grow close to your coworkers. In fact, it’s hard not to get to know people on a personal level beyond just a working relationship when you spend so much time with them. I have met many of my closest friends through school and through work. I love having friends at the office and it makes me even more eager to come to work when I know I am able to spend time with people I enjoy being around. And let’s face it, as much as young lawyers have to be in the office, it’s going to make life a whole lot more pleasant if you enjoy being around the people who share that space with you.
Despite all those positives, I still think that work relationships can be somewhat difficult and awkward at times, especially with social media. It is hard for some people to balance the concepts of being open and friendly with coworkers without “exposing” too much of their outside-of-work selves and taking the risk of having others not take them seriously. While I don’t necessarily stand behind the idea of having “rules” for workplace friendships, I do think that there are some important considerations to keep in mind. For example, it is not a good idea to take advantage of these relationships. This can be tricky for young lawyers just learning their workplace. Becoming friends with a coworker might feel as though it could lead to that person taking advantage of you. I have in no way perfected this one, but I find that as long as you can keep your normal boundaries, similar to ones that you would with outside-of-work friends, this will not be an issue (barring exceptional circumstances). Another one is discussing the work product of others, or the boss. Again, same deal as outside of work: no gossip.
Working with different types of people and becoming friends with them is among the best–and arguably the most genuine–types networking. You never know when you will run into your former coworkers again, and you are very likely to do so, regardless of whether the person is an attorney, or a paralegal or secretary.
Do you ever run into awkward situations with workplace friendships? (Ahem, Facebook) Or is this not an issue for you?