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In The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli declares: "It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both." And writer Rex Huppke agrees --except he means F.E.A.R, not fear. Though he tailors his approach to the world of business in general, the F.E.A.R. approach is just as useful when approaching legal issues.
Huppke urges to approach a given situation by first figuring out if what you need to do is necessary. To tailor this approach to legal issues, we would urge you to figure out, first and foremost, what the issue is. What is your client asking of you? Does the sales department want you to negotiate a deal before quarter end? Or does the finance department need some guidance on compliance issues. Before you jump all in, figure out exactly what people are asking of you. In this case, F is for issue spotting.
Next, Huppke coaches careful examination -- thinking before speaking. Hopefully, as an attorney you already know the importance of this, but you can never be too careful. Especially in confrontational situations often seen in a litigation context, the first gut response is often the worst. Before speaking or hitting send, spend some time mulling your response over, maybe even get a second opinion. You don't want to make the legal situation for your company worse because you flew off the handle.
Alter, as in changing your mind -- Huppke thinks that's A-Ok. In the law department, that may mean re-thinking a legal decision, or trying to approach the legal issue from a business frame of mind. Perhaps your company's legal practice is to include certain clauses in all agreements, but maybe your sales team is really persuasive as to why a particular client's agreement shouldn't have that term. Don't be afraid to alter your perspective and think like a business person, so long as you always have the company's best legal interests in mind.
Lastly, Huppke wants you to remember to be nice. While we're big fans of playing nice, as far as dealing with legal issues, we would urge you to remember the end goal. Sometimes you can get caught up in the legal minutiae of an issue and forget the corporate big picture. Take a step out of your lawyer shoes and try to approach the legal issue with what makes the most sense for the business. That just mignt include sustaining the relationships you have built over the years.
While you may rather employ other work acronyms like ASAP, TGIF, IRAC, or our favorite, WTF, incorporating some F.E.A.R. into your life may not be such a bad thing after all.
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