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Why Are The Lawyers Pestering Us? Communicating About Law And Compliance, by Mark Herrmann, Above The Law Blog (with hat tip to Raymond Ward, the [new] legal writer blog)


At a law firm, law matters. Law is the center of the institution’s universe, and it’s all everyone is thinking about.

It’s the other functions that don’t matter: ‘Another email from IT? Telling me about interfaces and gigabytes? Why don’t those clowns leave me alone?’

‘Another email from finance hectoring me about time sheets? Don’t those morons know I’m busy?’

At corporations, law (and compliance) is an ‘other function.’ The businesses are concentrating on their businesses, and law and compliance — along with human resources, information technology, and finance — are, at best, a means to an end. If you mirror the other ‘shared services’ and send incomprehensible communications to the businesses, the businesses will soon realize that you’re just one of the pests, meant to be ignored.

Inevitably, if a business person accidentally steps over some legal line, you’ll hear that the business guy had no clue that the line existed: ‘Yeah, yeah. Now that you’re telling me about it, I understand that we have that rule. But how was I to know? The rule is buried on the fourth page of some impenetrable policy hidden somewhere in our computer system. I spend my time selling; I can’t waste time trying to make sense of your legalese.’

If you don’t sympathize with that guy, then you’ve been a lawyer for too long. His criticism is not just an excuse for having violated the rules; his criticism may well be the truth. How can you change that reality? . . . .