How many cleaners work in your law office?

A number of years ago I read a book (the title and author escape me) where a guy was visiting Disney World and noticed a fellow pick up a piece of litter that someone had dropped. The fellow was wearing a suit, and the guy was puzzled. He spotted a Cast Member and asked “how many people are on the cleaning staff here?”

The Cast Member replied, “Sixty-five thousand.” The guy was floored. What he didn’t immediately understand was that in Disney’s view, every Cast Member and employee is on the cleaning crew. If they see a piece of trash on the ground, they pick it up.

Walt Disney got the idea for his amusement park, in part, by wishing there was a place where he and his daughters could go and they could all enjoy the rides. He also decided that his amusement park would be sparkling clean—unlike so many of the seedy, dingy amusement parks he’d seen. This vision of a clean place is carried through to today. And it makes perfect sense. None of us would like to visit a place that is messy, dirty, or even just untidy. We form impressions of places (and their owners!) by what we see. A business where things are neat and professional in appearance gives us confidence. A business where the customer waiting area looks like a dump makes us think the owner doesn’t care.

Every person in the firm, from the senior partner on down to the runner, should be trained to clean up anything out of order in a place that can be seen by clients. If you see those infernal blow-in subscription cards on the table in your waiting room, grab them and throw them out before a client sees them. (If you spot them when coming to greet your client, grab them and remark how you’re glad you got the chance to clean it up immediately—think about the impression that will make on your visitor!) If you see some small paper in a hallway, pick it up and toss it out.  If you see someone has left coffee cups in a conference room after a meeting, clear them out even if it’s someone else’s job.

For those who think that doing this kind of task is “beneath” you, consider this. By being willing to do these little things yourself, you set a great example for everyone else in the firm. You show that you care about how clients experience the office, and that keeping it clean is a priority. What right-minded employee will choose not to do something that The Boss is willing to do?

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