The way to wag the dog is to let your vastly superior knowledge of the law and your vastly superior training in extreme risk avoidance do the work.
By hiring you in the first place they’ve given you the power to frame the decisions for them. But what they don’t want to hear is “no” all the time. They want to hear “how”. They don’t want two, three, five or twenty page responses – yes, we’ve seen them all – to their enquiries.
The answer to “can we do this?” is either “yes” or “no, but you could do this…” and nothing else. Remember “not ‘no’, but how…”. If you see a red flag it’s your job to figure the workaround, not to bounce it back to them.
You’ll know what you can take a lean approach with, and where you can’t. You’ll know what behaviours are going to land them in serious trouble, and areas which are grey and where your clever shortcuts and lean processes are going to produce quick, user-friendly solutions.
In an earlier piece we spoke about designing a strategy for Legal. In military strategy, there is a useful concept: doctrine. Doctrine sits between strategy (the plan for what to do) and tactics (what happens on a daily basis on the front line in pursuit of the strategy).
Doctrine is how you’re going to fight. Your mindset is your doctrine. It will outline how you get your strategy from A to B and build up a suite of tactics for the purpose. Learn from the Lean Startup principles. Experiment with your tactics. If something isn’t working, learn why and adapt or abandon. Let your learning become your habits, focus on what works rather than banging your head against a brick wall. Don’t be afraid to think differently, put it into action and see what happens.
And lean into it. Remember, you left private practice or your big company for a reason. You didn’t really fit in, or you hated the straitjackets, the slow pace, the bureaucracy, the wheels upon wheels producing “perhaps this or perhaps this or perhaps that” answers.
So for heaven’s sake don’t replicate standard lawyering. It will be tempting. It feels like safety, this orderly retreat into what you have been trained to do. But it’s a box canyon. There’s no way out, if you trap yourself in there. You’ll be on the defensive continually, and you won’t realise your potential as an in-house lawyer or help your company become one of the 10% of startups which do make it.