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A law department whose lawyers “never say no”

A general counsel, speaking recently to a large group of in-house lawyers, proudly explained that in his law department, “Our lawyers never say ‘no’ to clients.” Lest you be concerned about such patsies who abdicate their checks-and-balances role, he hastened to add that that his lawyers will tell wayward clients something like “That is really not a very good idea,” or “What if we did this instead,” or “Do you know the criminal penalties under the Pflegal Law?”

He also emphasized that the more the in-house lawyers explain legal risks and considerations to clients, the more they educate non-lawyers, the easier it is to point them in the right direction. In-house counsel need to strive to be enablers and one way to do that is to show clients how they can achieve what they want to with the appropriate amount of understood legal risks (See my post of Jan. 3, 2008 on the squishy definition of “legal risk.”).

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