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Clarification: Lawyers Work for You

One thing about crisis management and leadership in difficult situations has remained the same throughout my career and that is the glacial speed at which litigation unfolds. Understand that my clients are always defendants (perpetrators). In today’s Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and “the new social media app being introduced next week” age, there are dramatic new pressures on lawyers, defendants and perpetrators to get more explained and done faster.

The growing problem is that these urgent situations generate higher, sharper, often sudden, explosive visibility. The standard notion that remaining silent is a good defense strategy is simply no longer true (it never was). In my experience, silence is almost always a toxic strategy to whomever is foolish enough to use it. Lawyer-inspired modest, and often vacuous, statements simply revictimize those already injured.

Delay plus silence corrodes reputation, which can be avoided by promptly communicating, simply and constructively, right from the start. If your attorney has a problem with this, find a better attorney.

I remind my clients that while the attorney is very important, as you’ll see in the attached “client letter” I send to all clients who have legal advisors, I clarify the attorney’s role versus the leadership perspective required to successfully resolve contention, reduce victimization and often speed up case settlement. Here are two powerful legal guidance concepts:

  1. All attorneys work for their client, rather than the reverse. There is a sense of confusion about who is driving the bus, so to speak. The leader always keeps that responsibility. Lawyers, despite their aggressive behavior, also need to remember who drives the bus (and remind their clients).
  1. Virtually all the crucial decisions, and other decisions, for that matter, are really up to the client, rather than the attorneys. Attorneys have to be very careful about how strongly they appear to recommend what they propose, leaving room for the client to make all the crucial decisions and take final responsibility.

I mention this because there is no client-facing handbook that explains the real role of attorneys. My client letter will help you keep leadership and legal issues in perspective.

To read more on working with attorneys, check out another blog post featured on called Language Lessons for Leaders, Lawyers, and Managers: Lesson #1: Your Mother Was Wrong About One Thing.

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