Another tool for killing bad ideas early is to suggest a call with outside counsel, especially when gate-
keeping risks to the organization and to in-house counsel are high. Hopefully your colleague(s) will be too
embarrassed or ashamed to describe and defend a highly questionable idea to a sophisticated stranger. And if
you have the call and it goes as expected, the added support for your position will serve as yet another deterrent.
Calling counsel may seem wasteful when you already know the answer. But minimizing harm to your
internal relationships is important for continued effectiveness, so allowing outside counsel to play “bad
cop” once in a while is a wise use of resources.
The best outside counsel will frequently suggest completely different solutions to tricky problems, and
you should push them to do so in every call. Outside counsel might even take a completely different view of
the matter. If that happens, strongly consider letting outside counsel’s opinion rule the day, demonstrating
your flexibility and reasonable risk tolerance.
Robert V. Boeshaar
ATTORNEY AT LAW | LL.M., PLLC
206.866.2276 | boeshaarlaw.com
1000 Second Avenue, Suite 3000 | Seattle, WA 98104
Masters of Laws (LL.M.) in Taxation
I help individuals and businesses find the best
Over 14 years experience with the IRS O;ce of Chief Counsel
resolution to their disputes with the IRS.
Leverage the "Good Cop, Bad Cop" Role of Outside Counsel No. 6
Even after you go through something like the process discussed in No. 4 above, a team member may still
become agitated and even angry if he or she perceives you as unreasonably blocking or slowing down a
potentially valuable course of action.
Gatekeeping can be a stressful and high-risk activity, especially early in a career. Keeping your cool is
often hard, but it’s almost always helpful.
Anticipate gatekeeping stresses and how to respond. Be ready to suppress the desire to angrily correct a
colleague. Focus on trying to understand and appreciate his or her perspective. Listening and asking ques-
tions is the best formula for preventing conflict. Colleagues will often talk themselves into agreement with
your position when the facts and law are on your side.
And don’t be afraid to try a little psychology. Most of us understand cognitive dissonance theory—the idea
that a person trying to hold onto and reconcile two inconsistent ideas will seek to resolve that internal conflict.
Consider asking questions that lead your colleague to the conclusion that breaking the law, triggering a viola-
tion, or causing some other legal trouble conflicts with his or her self-image as a smart, honest, law-abiding person.
“Would this be worth risking the company’s reputation or yours?”
“Can you imagine explaining a regulatory violation to future potential employers?”
Use Emotional Intelligence and Psychology 101 No. 5
RISK LEVELS ARE
WITH POOR ETHICAL
LEADERSHIP AT THE
TOP AND HENCE