It’s not a crime to be innocent, these things we have not done
But you’re not some little child, spring is past and gone
Well I know my craving heart and I’ve seen your vicious eyes
And I think we know the truth, both you and I
Don’t flutter your lashes like a little girl
And ask me why it’s such a cruel, cruel world, no
Don’t ask any more stupid questions
You already know the answers to,
New Model Army, Stupid Questions
Lawyers represent a huge risk to the business. Most of them believe their role is to insure they can never be blamed for any decision made, rather than the traditional role of a business – to make money.
And I’m not even talking about external lawyers who are looking for ways to sue you :) these are your own employees who earn their living of your business.
A typical discussion with the legal department goes something like this:
- Manager: Can I Do X?
- Legal:No, it is risky.
- Manager:But It is Really Important.
- Legal: I’ll check.
Legal never get back so the managers pings legal two weeks later.
- Manager : What’s the answer? Legal : You can’t.
- Manager : Why? Because it is very risky for IP\TAX\HR\Contract reasons.
I have learned a few rules to mitigate the risk from the legal department.
- Learn the principles. My two MBA courses on contracts and law in information systems have given me enough basics to ask hard questions.
- Managers should understand employees’ social rights , benefits and different employment models etc. This is important part of the role, not “HR department role”.
- Always start from the business goal. The lawyer cannot argue about that because he does not understand the business and because you are the owner.
- If you are hiring the lawyers get the good ones who understand business and are service oriented.
- If you are using internal legal and get bad service – complain. Legal is a service provider , just like the IT department. If their responses are slow, inaccurate or unhelpful to te manager one should talk to their executive and ask for assistance.
- Demand domain expertise. High-Tech Lawyers should understand the difference between SaaS ans On Premise, for example.
- Use standard forms,standard contracts, standard NDA etc. It is not scalable to rethink these for each relationship.
- Request service, not consulting. For example :” want to have a OEM partnership with X in two weeks because it is going to add 20M$ for us next year. Please handle the legal parts ASAP”
- Give the lawyers context and business reasons: what are you trying to achieve, who is the other side, what’s the urgency, what’s the reward.
- Don’t go legal unless you have to.Risk is everywhere – bugs, features, unhappy customers. As managers we manage risk without even thinking about it. Lawyers are trained to think only about the risks and have a very strong bias against action. In decisions where risk is understood and is small , it is better to leave legal out of the picture.
- Unless we are talking about tax or death issues , no one is going to come back to the manager 10 years from now and blame him anyway
- Insurance is a great way to quantify risk and can be used in many cases. For example , instead of long debates on what will happen if your web site is crashed by aliens, it is simpler to buy insurance.
- “Risk to legal department” != “Risk to the business”
- Magic words: “I understand the risk and I accept it, If things go wrong this is my business decision”.Since most lawyers are just looking to cover their behinds, this is what they need to hear.