Learning to say "no" will protect you and your company

You can't keep all the spinning plates of your clients' requests balanced forever

“More with less.” The phrase has never been more trenchant or applicable to the in-house practitioner than in this economic climate. As in-house lawyers pressure their firm partners to deliver value and efficiency while maintaining high-quality and winning results, we in turn receive pressure from our department leaders and client executives to produce more results with unchanging or decreased resources. As I said recently in a presentation to a local group of legal marketers, “CFOs have never had more power than they do this instant. Why should in-house lawyers and their firm service providers be seen differently by a CFO than the IT group or any other support department?”

While some in-house lawyers may feel strongly that they do deserve better treatment, the business climate suggests that those who sign our paychecks feel otherwise. They are challenged to measure our success. As a result, the Association of Corporate Counsel website is now peppered with articles and tools on how we can “show the value” of the legal department. For many of us, showing value is simply saying “yes” to all requests and working until all requests are met, which they never are. If we take on every task and never show resistance to unreasonable requests, how could we possibly lose our jobs? It can be a fearbased practice. There is no endgame, no annual billable hours’ number to hit.

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Stephen Kaplan

Stephen Kaplan is senior vice president and general counsel of Connextions, Inc.

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