Posts Tagged ‘legal advice’

You know the old saying “If there is only one lawyer in a town, he’ll be poor.  But if there are two lawyers in a town, they’ll both be rich!” The insinuation is, of course, that they will convince the people in the town to sue each other.  I’m sure you know a dozen other lawyer jokes.

People say they hate working with lawyers – – – they are expensive, they speak a language few others understand, they are deal-breakers not deal-makers, and . . . did I mention that they are expensive?  But if you are in business, lawyers can be a necessary and valuable part of your team.  And even the most rabid anti-lawyer person changes his tune completely and rapidly when he has a legal issue: He cannot seek out a good lawyer fast enough!

In a company, lawyers will be involved in bidding large jobs, to make sure the proposal team doesn’t inadvertently commit the enterprise (company, service, agency, etc.)  to do something inappropriate or impossible.  They will also be involved in mergers and acquisitions, employment agreements, patent applications, teaming agreements, employee terminations and other such stuff.  But let’s say you are a low level employee in a company, doing your job and staying out of trouble.  When should you, personally, seek the advice of an attorney inside your company?  Anytime one of these events occurs:

  • You are asked by ANYONE (even your boss) to do something you know would be illegal.
  • You learn that a government person, either in the USA or abroad, might be paid to steer a procurement award toward your company.  (This is Foreign Corrupt Practices Act issue and people can go to jail.)
  • You hear a client say anything even hinting at legal action against your organization, even if just a hypothetical discussion.
  • You find something wrong (missing, broken, not installed correctly, etc.) on a deliverable and your supervisor won’t listen.  Before that gear gets shipped to a client, talk to your boss and then to his boss, etc. until you get that equipment fixed.  And if nobody will listen to you, talk to a company attorney.
  • You see someone being discriminated against because of their race, color, religion, sex, etc. and the reporting chain won’t stop it.
  • You see an unsafe condition on the job, where coworkers or customers could be hurt, and nobody in the immediate management chain seems concerned.

There are more examples but certainly in any of the above cases, a company lawyer who must defend the company if sued for improper action, or not taking a required action (known as errors of omission or commission), will be VERY interested in what you have to say.  They will want to head-off any impending legal disaster and will go right to the top of the company if needed.  Yes, you may have some explaining to do with your management chain if you bypassed some of them as you sought out the lawyer but in a decent company, you’ll be rewarded , not disciplined, if you acted in good faith and with the company’s reputation foremost in mind.

Here are some basic do’s and don’ts regarding working with corporate lawyers:

  1. Involve them earlier rather than later.  They can sometimes easily fix a problem if told about it early enough.  If you wait too long, problems can cascade, their hands may be tied and very bad things can occur (lost jobs, lawsuits, criminal penalties, etc.)
  2. Come completely clean.  Tell them everything about the incident/problem/issue and leave nothing out.  They cannot help you if you lie to them.
  3. Get to know them when you aren’t having a crisis. Invite them to proposal-completion parties; ask their advice on almost-routine things just so you can learn how they think; invite them out with customers so they get to know the clients.
  4. Don’t “shave” the rules.  If something you are considering would get you in trouble with the legal staff, do not do it.

In short, treat lawyers like you would want to be treated.  The old Golden Rule applies to the legal beagles too.

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation