Going beyond your skill and knowledge level is not a risk just for in-house lawyers

Recently I took in-house counsel to task who fail to consult with outside lawyers if they get in too deep. Ken Grady in turn took me to task and made some good points.

“Do in-house counsel err from time to time – sure. Do outside counsel – at least as much. Being outside does not make you an expert. It seems like every day I am telling outside counsel about statutes they missed, regs they haven’t read, cases they failed to read, and so on. Oh yes, these are partners and sometimes associates at the major firms who claim ‘expertise’ in their areas. It should not be in-house or outside counsel, it should be lawyers who go beyond their skill or knowledge level.”

Ken is exactly right. Both sides need self-knowledge and humility. Many in-house counsel know the law pertaining to their business far better than the “generalist” outside lawyers. It badly serves your clients, whether they are managers or in-house lawyers, to exaggerate your command of the relevant law.

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