Progress sacrificed at the altar of prudence

“Don’t tell your lawyer. They are trained to say no”

So said one of the presenters at Dell’s b2b (business to business) huddle last December.  He was answering a question (not mine) about involving your legal team when creating policy and strategy.

“There is something inherent within lawyers, within their very composition, that drives them to say no.” the speaker continued.

Now, I was with a few good friends, namely corporate communications expert Diana Railton and the seemingly inexhaustible Richard Hill of Innovantage and E-CRM.

Bear in mind that I was there to learn more about b2b social media and not in my capacity as lawyer. I was ‘undercover.’

When this comment was made my colleagues turned to me to see my reaction – and no doubt to make sure I had registered the point being made! I had, and it’s a point that disappoints and intrigues me.

The disappointment stems from the message that lawyers are seen as inhibitors of innovation. That, to me is wretched and contrary to so much of what drives me personally.

The impression is not entirely unfounded either. There are individuals and wings of the profession who revel in their conservatism. Check out the letter pages of the Law Society Gazette and there you will find them.

And it leaves me wondering, to what extent are lawyers still seen as self appointed high-priests overseeing the sacrifice of progress at the altar of prudence.

Forgive the purple prose.  Got a bit carried away there but you get the point. Normal service shall resume shortly!


Filed under Law, Lawyers and Social Media

3 responses to “Progress sacrificed at the altar of prudence

  1. This is what comes of being there to help clients cover their backs. If we don’t advise on risks, we get sued!

    The trick is to do that and help find solutions that enable client objectives to be achieved, ie to be constructive and not just negative.

  2. Stephen

    I was explicitly taught at law school that people don’t pay a lawyer to tell them what they can’t do. This seems like common sense to me. I’d assume most practising lawyers would have heard this too.

    On the other hand if you’re actively leaving legal advice out of your business decisions because it stops them telling you what you want to do is illegal this seems like a good way to end up in jail.

  3. Good points of course.

    In fairness the original speaker was not advocating the entire absence of legal advice but recommended getting it later on in the process.

    The thinking was that legal advice early on could kill off initiative and innovation.

    Gabor raises the unique challenge of saying no (when we have to) and come up with supportive alternatives at the same time. There is an excellent book that you might be interested in by William Ury called “The Power of the Positive No” – highly recommended!

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