Courage and law department management

At rare intervals, hopefully, an in-house lawyer must be professionally courageous. Courage is necessary when a lawyer takes a position that is unpopular to a powerful client: “Your deal violates the antitrust laws.” Courage is important when a lawyer speaks up with a message that others do not want to hear: “We have been sued and it’s a harassment claim against you” (See my post of Jan. 19, 2008 on managers who bully.). Courage needs to come to the fore when pressures of many kinds to step over the legal line lean heavily on a lawyer: “Just backdate one option?”

Sometimes integrity and courage are intertwined. To stand behind your convictions is to show integrity, but also courage. To admit a mistake takes courage (See my post of Dec. 17, 2006 on Type I and II errors; and May 1, 2006 on no individual errors outside of processes.). To try something new, especially in the face of doubters, tests a lawyer’s mettle (See my post of Jan. 3, 20008 on productivity and innovation.).

Courage can’t be tested well in interviews (See my post of Jan. 1, 2006 on past behavioral interviewing.) but it is called for at times in the hurly-burly of serving as an in-house counsel

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