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An overlooked detriment when you bring aboard senior associates – risk avoidance to risk management

The initiative of Hewlett-Packard to hire four first-year associates to start in September has deservedly gotten much play. One aspect of the article in the Recorder, June 21, 2010 at 5, however, may have been overlooked and deserves comment.

The Deputy General Counsel who led the recruitment effort remarked in his interview about a downside when you add fifth-to seventh-year law firm associates. “You spend a fair bit of time getting them to transition from risk avoidance to risk management.”

He means that external lawyers do everything they can to uncover all the potential legal risks of something and to stamp out any embers. Once inside a company, however, lawyers have to change and accept that business must move forward, that some level of risk can smolder that is an acceptable tradeoff for profit, and that the goal of an effective lawyer changes from risk elimination to risk balancing. Pick your risks and suggest practical solutions that manage that risk even if you can’t douse every glowing coal of potential legal trouble.