Rich Bay Street Lawyers and the Test of Human Dignity

rich bay street lawyers, security, work, career

Today’s post will be a quickie about rich Bay Street Lawyers and the test of human dignity. Yesterday I came across at pretty neat story in Toronto Star called, ‘Bay Street law firm uses fingerprint technology to monitor employees’ comings and goings‘ and needless to say after reading the article, it caught my attention to say the least. Seriously, it caught my attention, so I decided to do a quick followup, share my opinion and more importantly get your two cents in return.

Sounds like the days of sneaking out for longer lunches and leaving early on Friday afternoons could be a thing of past at one of Toronto’s Bay Street law firms. McCague Borlack LLP has decided to revamp the security at it’s  office by installing top notch security – finger swipe tracking. This will require the staff to clock in and out of the office with a finger swipe, and in turn hopefully eliminate morning late-comers, long lunch goers, and those who take off early on Friday afternoons.

Personally I think this a pretty interesting concept and the maximum use of technology. It’s certainly the first time I’m ever hearing about anything like this. However, what struck a nerve with me was that this new system that’s about to be installed at McCague Borlack LLP only applies to the secretaries and the copy-room staff, and excludes the lawyers and legal assistants. Why not just institute the same rules for everyone? Instead it seems that rules don’t apply to those who charge their clients upwards of $400 per hour.

Is this Nepotism or Favoritism?

Time will tell, and this won’t go down easily for the law firm as the secretaries have launched a blog that updates the happenings and shares their thoughts on this matter. If you’d like to read the very interesting blog, check out the Fingerprint Campaign and why the lawyers and managing partners at McCague Borlack LLP deserve the finger.

My Two Cents

I really think the technology aspect of this story is pretty cool, and it’s the first time I’m hearing about it and seeing this technology outside of watching it on Criminal Minds on TV. I could also see how technology like this would eliminate a lot of lateness, long lunches, and early departures, so I can see where the law firm is going with the idea. However, what irks me about this story is that there are two sets of rules aimed at two sets of people, therefore creating a divide within a place that employs roughly 200 people.

Furthermore, it also creates a sense of unfairness between the lawyers and their legal assistants, and those who are paper pushers at the bottom of the chain as looked at by most lawyers, yet secretaries are the ones who push a fair amount of work in a given day. I personally don’t know any lawyers firsthand, but have dated a few secretaries and legal assistants in my lifetime, who’ve shared stories, opinions and thoughts on what it’s like to work for a law firm. We all know lawyers can be nasty, and for the most part think that their shit don’t stink, so I’m certain you can imagine some rudeness towards the secretarial employees. Also, who looks after the time lawyers spend on any given case for a client? Nobody! That’s why clients are served with invoices for “x amount of hours”,  yet nobody can question the hours or the lawyers or how much time they’ve actually spent on a given case. I’m certain that lawyers wouldn’t be fond of having to finger in-and-out for every case they work on, so they can truthfully show the actual hours that are spent working on a case and not having a 5-star lunch.

Finally, fingerprinting your way in-and-out, so someone else can track your whereabouts sounds freakish. Whatever happened to the basic principles of privacy and basic humanity? I guess they’re gone out the window in this case. In every job, there needs leeway and room for error. I’m a firm believer that the stronger the constraints are on employees, the more counterproductive employees become. Good companies are built on trust, and allowing it’s employees to be creative in their own way. You don’t have to look very far to see the success of companies Google, Apple, Delta Hotels, Cisco Systems, TD Bank, and many others.

What About You?

Thanks for reading my two cents, but as I mentioned at the beginning of the article I’d love to know your two cents, and the view you share on the above story and issue. Furthermore, if you’d like to read more and know get to know the issue in depth, check out the two links below:

Toronto StarBay Street law firm uses fingerprint technology to monitor employees’ comings and goings

Finger CampaignWhich Finger to Give to Bay Street

Readers, what are your two cents? How do you feel about this? What would you do if you were McCague Borlack LLP?

Thanks for stopping by!



  1. One summer I worked somewhere that had a hand bio scanner thingie as the time clock. Boy did every single person hate that thing! I also know from lawyer friends that the flexibility and treatment of lawyers is usually based on how much business they bring in. Those that bring in more dollars are usually granted more flexibility and trust than those that don’t.
    I agree that companies are built on trust. However, I do understand the line in the sand that has been drawn, based on the employment type and duties of those being clocked.
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  2. The reason that lawyers and legal assistants don’t have to finger-in/-out is because we bill the client per hour. If you ask for a detailed bill as a client you would receive one that says something like:

    Nov. 1: 10.00-10.12: Phone call; 10.12-10.36: Motion drafted

    We bill in increments of time and the firm keeps track. Secretaries and copy-staff are salaried employees whose time is unaccounted for. This method is a means of supervising without having to pay for a human supervisor.
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    • Hi Vanessa!
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
      I’m pretty certain “legal assistants” are salaried staff as well. New Lawyers are as well, until they become partners within the firm are as well no?
      Further, you still need someone to review everyone’s ins and outs – therefore you still need some form of a human supervisor.



  3. I don’t have any experience working with lawyers. I have had to hire a few for various things and thier rates seem very high, but the time is broken down into an understandable form, and that’s what they charge. Take it or leave it. Maybe they bill big corporations differently than individuals or small businesses, but I don’t feel like it was unfair in my experience.

    As for my staff, I would much rather trust them and assume they are going to do what they are supposed to do. Most do, but you always get a few who try to work less, and get paid more. I’ve had everything from made up hours to an employee taking my credit card to go personal shopping. Those are the ones who ruin it for the good employees. We once had a lady who was supposed to come in early and open up. She wasn’t doing that and clients would arrive to find the doors locked. I did not know about this for several months because my staff doesn’t like to tattle. She still got paid for coming in early and “forgot” to let me know those hours were not worked. It really sucks for the good employees that a few bad apples always ruin it. Bosses generally don’t want to micromanage, so I can understand the rationale behind this system if there are 200 employees. They most likely give the lawyers more leeway because they do bring in more money and may need more flexibility to do that. It has been my experience that lawyers work late hours in many cases, so maybe giving longer breaks and not a specific start and end time works better for the company. Probably not always fair, but that’s life.
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  4. Edward Parl says:

    If this fingerprinting scheme was really about catching people slacking off on the job then why are the lawyers exempted? Perhaps the lawyers don’t want to participate because they might have to present the logs when a client files a suit for being overbilled. It would be embarrassing to find out that a particular partner was out of the office during a period the client was charged.

  5. If this only applies to hourly staff, it doesn’t bother me. As Vanessa mentioned, lawyers and (usually) paralegals track their billable hours (so bosses can see exactly what they do and how much time the spend doing it).

    I’ve worked retail before, in a place that required time stamps in and out- even for smoking breaks.
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  6. A pretty neat concept, but theoretically you could monitor each employee coming and going at any building that employs swipe card technology, since usually these cards are mapped to an individual.

    I agree that there needs to be trust between the employer and the employee and I would feel very defensive if this technology was to be used on me, but not the rest of the office staff.

    I’m curious to see how it plays out, it certainly wouldn’t be a selling point if I was hoping to get a job there.
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  7. Lisa Smith says:

    Please note that the fingerprinting campaign is not for security reasons; Borlack made this point very clear to us on the meeting of October 2nd. This program is about the violation of the dignity of secretaries and copy-room staff. It is not about punching in/out. We can do that easily. The clerks and paralegals are exempt because one of them is married to the senior lawyer-partner. If this program were abaout security or fire saftey (which was the first jusitification) than why is it that it excluded 2/3 of the entire staff? Furthermore, why is it that the fingeprinting machines are located in the lunch-rooms, which do not provide or prevent access to the main office doors. The security element is a red-herring, with Borlack mentioning it for the first time in the STAR article. He is in the wrong, but is too arrogant to admit it. Rumours abound that people want to leave, and will be as this month progresses. This program is an insult.