Somewhere in some law firm’s ‘closed files’ archive, there is probably a file with my name on it. The subject matter line likely reads something like, “Possible Sexual Harassment Claim.”
Now to be clear, I do not believe that I sexually harassed anyone, and if I am wrong about that, the one potential claimant I can think of has never sued, and most likely would have to explain away marrying me to win a lawsuit.
But the law firm at which we both practiced law? I am guessing that they were concerned. Maybe they even went out and got some advice.
When my wife and I met, I was the managing partner of the law firm and she was the articling student. We were both married. Sounds bad, doesn’t it?
It is now twenty-four years later. We have been together for eighteen years, married for twelve. We are very much in love, just as we were before we even met. No set of rules would have kept us apart. As artists from Emily Dickinson to Selena Gomez have said, “The heart wants what it wants,” and therein lies the difficulty with promulgating hard and fast rules about relationships in the workplace.
When we got together, everyone in our former law firm had an opinion.
Some of the Associates believed that our relationship was somehow unfair to them, and bad for their careers. They reacted accordingly.
The Partners seemed concerned that they were going to lose the billings and clients of one or both of us, and if we fell out of love, they were going to get sued. They also had to respond to the concerns rising up from the chatter amongst more junior lawyers at the firm. In short, we were making things uncomfortable for some, and difficult for others.
(It is interesting to note that a few major clients were not only unsurprised, but were also very supportive.)
Only a few members of the firm reacted with joy that we had found each other and sincere wishes that we would be happy together. And that is understandable, I guess. But it was damaging, and never forgotten. But to us, despite everything, it was worth it.
Like it or not, the profession is made up of human beings. Denying our humanity does a service to no one. Even if doing so seems like good corporate practice.