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Mission: Not-Profitable

"Whatever you do, don't get the lawyers involved."

I'm sure you've heard such comments. You hear them at for-profit companies too, but my guess is they are less frequent. The lure of revenue has a way of focusing everybody's attention on the task at hand. Corporate in-house counsel give advice with an eye toward preserving the project, whatever it is, so that it doesn't unravel later due to legal issues--if, that is, they don't kill it early on because it can't pass the legal smell test. The board, the stockholders and the management would go ballistic if their lawyers failed to

The smart in-house lawyer always tries to make things work and would rather make deals than break them. Still, every "no" from the legal department, no matter how infrequent, disappoints somebody immediately. And later, when it becomes obvious the non-profit dodged a bullet because it had good legal counsel up front, the pats on the back are rare.

The solution is not to introduce the profit motive into non-profits but to listen to counsel. Then feel good about the outcome as you give him (or her) a hug.


Bruce D. Collins

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