The “no surprise” rule works in three directions

One of the eternal truths about law departments is that they expect their law firms to plop down no major surprises. Don’t bushwhack us, department managers say to law firms, and help us foresee as much as possible potential major events.

The same advice applies in a second direction, to those in-house lawyers who report to the general counsel. “Don’t let me surprised in front of the CEO,” plead general counsel, “by that person knowing something about a legal matter that I should have known.” Keep me promptly advised of possible scenarios and late-breaking, important news.

The third direction where one finds the “no surprise” rule is with the CEO. The top executive also does not want to be ambushed by something legal that could have been warned about. One obligation of the general counsel is to brief senior executives so that they can respond knowingly to legal questions and circumstances.

No one can predict the future, but all three sides can at least keep their “client” abreast of developments as they happen and unveil as much of the high-risk futures as is possible.

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