There are likely several more stories to come.

Courtney Milan’s post about Alex Kozinski is a harrowing read, but an important one.  In a Washington Post story about the allegations against him, Matt Zapotosky wrote, “After the story posted online, the judge told the Los Angeles Times, ‘I don’t remember ever showing pornographic material to my clerks’ and, ‘If this is all they are able to dredge up after 35 years, I am not too worried.’”  Well, “this” is not all they are able to dredge up.  I don’t know how many other stories there are out there, but here’s mine.

I clerked for the Hon. Joseph T. Sneed in 1985-86.  It was one of the best jobs that I have ever had.  Judge Sneed taught me about tight editing, critical thinking, and fair decision-making.  He was a wonderful mentor to me and to countless other former law clerks.

Judge Kozinski sat up north from time to time, and at one point during my clerkship, he asked me to go for drinks with him and his clerks after work.  I’m sociable (though not much of a drinker), so I agreed.  When I showed up, none of his clerks were there.  Just him.

Two things stand out in my memory.  One was that he asked me, “What do single girls in San Francisco do for sex?”  Another was, after I said I needed to head home because I had to absorb the news that my mother had just been diagnosed with breast cancer, he offered to “comfort” me.  There was no reporting relationship between him and me, and I certainly never believed that my job with Judge Sneed was ever in jeopardy because of my interactions with Judge Kozinski.  I just thought that the judge exhibited extremely poor taste.

But I have told countless female law students that I would never write them a letter of recommendation for a clerkship with him, and I have told them why.  I didn’t want them ever to be at risk of being sexually harassed by him.  I have told some of my female colleagues not to be alone with him, and for the same reason.

I doubt that he remembers our interaction that night.  I do, and I view his statement to the Los Angeles Times as a challenge; hence, this post to add to the other voices.

 

Why customer service matters so much

Few things in life push my buttons so much as bad customer service does. Why is that?

One reason is that I work in two different service industries. Law is certainly a service industry, and so is higher education. The former involves my fiduciary duty to my clients. The latter involves duties to my students (to teach them well), to my profession (to create good scholarship), and to my university (to perform my job duties well). I try to do a good job every day–I don’t always succeed, but I try–and, for the life of me, I can’t understand people who don’t take their jobs seriously.  Is it the pay? Probably that’s part of the story, but I hope that’s not the entire answer. I know highly paid people who are bad at customer service, and I know low-wage people who are marvelous at it.

Another reason why bad customer service pushes my buttons is what bad customer service represents. An organization’s customer service is one measure of whether the organization is healthy. It’s the window to an organization’s inner workings. What an organization values is what it rewards. If it rewards customer service, customer service is good. Chewy.com is a perfect example of great customer service, as is Zappos.com. Both companies go out of their way to make sure that their employees treat their customers well, and both companies are rewarded for their efforts with customer loyalty.

Bad customer service, on the other hand, indicates poor morale and thus indicates a low-functioning organization.

So here’s the question that puzzles me: how can we take the symptom of bad customer service and use it to fix the unhealthy organization that has generated it?