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Fifteen years later, do the Reebok Rules still rule?

In 1992, the general counsel of Reebok, Jack Douglas, drafted what he called the Reebok Rules. Have those famous Rules passed the test of time?

To start on that profound question, I categorized the 23 rules into five topical areas. According to this exercise, nine addressed productivity (No’s 8, 9, 11, 13, 14, 17, 19, and 20). Five focused on client satisfaction (No’s 2, 4, 6, 16, and 22). Four have to do with what could be described as professionalism (No’s 10, 12, 15, and 21), three have to do with the relationship between providing business and legal advice (No’s 1, 3, and 7), and two touch mostly on talent (No’s 18 and 23).

Riveting, but are the Rules au courant? Fifteen years ago, Douglas omitted any Rules related to the use and management of outside counsel; said nothing about cost control, nor even whiffed at benchmarks. His rules slight technology (except a side mention of a coffee maker and telephone) and he neglected any mention of either training and knowledge management or the scope of responsibility of the law department.

Aside from mustiness, the Rules are like those of Strunk & White for writers: well-intentioned and correct, but hard to apply. Promulgated during a kinder and gentler era for law departments, where the aura of a store-front lawyer like Jimmy Stewart’s banker in It’s a Wonderful Life, the Rules remind us of unhurried lawyers who stick to practicing law, know clients personally, and befriend them with trust and avuncular wisdom.

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