Sometimes in the course of thinking creatively about organizational goals, colleagues will
come up with ideas that seem misguided, wasteful, or just plain stupid.
There is nothing wrong with in-house counsel engaging in those discussions and diplomatically
expressing personal opinions. But there is a fine line between something that is illegal or improper
and just stupid. Blocking stupid projects or initiatives is usually somebody else’s job. In-house coun-
sel should avoid burning goodwill on matters outside their responsibility or authority.
More challenging yet, team members in highly entrepreneurial organizations often want to push
legal and regulatory boundaries and operate in slightly grey areas. Inexperienced counsel often rush
to judgment in such circumstances and take unnecessarily rigid positions.
Resist drawing lines where none exist –“uncertain” doesn’t always equal “illegal.” Be willing to
accept appropriate risks if superiors up the chain are willing to do so also. Strive to be a creative
thought leader in grey areas, not a timid follower of the status quo. The “easy answer” is not always
the correct answer.
Demonstrating this level of risk tolerance and creativity will lead your colleagues to accept your
judgment when legal or regulatory difficulties can’t be avoided.
Don't Confuse Judgment Calls with Gatekeeping No. 3
Even where proposed conduct would be illegal or otherwise improper, avoid the temptation to
immediately say “no” and walk away.
Always assume that there is some other way to do something another team member wants to do
and explore those possibilities with your colleague until and beyond the point at which he or she
concedes that there is no better solution.
In such instances, in-house counsel must have the humility and insight to realize that their
non-attorney colleagues probably know best how to achieve the organization’s objectives and that
the job of in-house counsel is to guide their colleagues through creative problem-solving to tease
out the very best solutions to legal and regulatory challenges.
Don't Just Say "No"—Look for a Better Solution No. 4
1000 Second Avenue, Suite 3670, Seattle, WA 98104
Phone: 206-652-8660 www.bjtlegal.com
Brendan represents consumers and
employees in individual cases and
class actions across Washington.