Making good policy is more like running a marathon than a sprint. It simply takes time and effort to figure out where you are now and how to get where you want to be in the future. In my particular case, what started as a list of priorities hand-written on a yellow legal pad in December 2001, when I was the first and only lawyer at Go Daddy, evolved into a sophisticated set of policies, processes, standard operating procedures, industry best practices, proposed legislation and fully enacted laws, implemented by a staff of nearly 100 dedicated employees who, over more than a decade, came to make up the Go Daddy legal department. Looking back on that evolution, I couldn’t be prouder of what we accomplished, and the wheels of progress we set in motion that will keep rolling for many years to come.
Many freshly minted in-house lawyers have reached out to me over the last number of years to ask about that policy development evolution, and the process I developed to get from a yellow legal pad to fully enacted laws. I take great joy in sharing the story with them, some of which I have told in this series in articles about knowing your big picture, strategy, goals, audience and players in order to effectively influence policy. As I said, I am extremely proud of the decade I spent at Go Daddy and the lasting impact that time will have on the Internet. Still, every good story has to have an ending, and for this series, the final lesson is this: know your endgame.
But, before we get there, let’s quickly review. In order to help shape policy, as inside counsel, you have to know at least the following:
- The big picture. What is the lay of the land where you operate?
- Your strategy. Is internal or external policy development the best approach for your client?
- Your goals. Should you focus on making good policy, avoiding bad policy, or both?
- Your audience. Are you seeking to shape policy at a local, state, national or international level?
- The players. Who are your allies and enemies?
It took me some time to figure out the answers to those five questions, as it will for anyone who is hoping to have a significant impact on policy, at any level, especially in a newly established policy shop. Remember, it’s like running a marathon. Good things take time and effort. But even after the answers to those important questions have been firmly established, you still have to answer the most fundamental question of all: what is your endgame?
Here is where I make the most important point in this entire six-part series:
If you don’t know your endgame, the rest of the policy development process is meaningless.
An endgame is purpose. It’s why you are doing what you’re doing. It’s why you care about being involved in shaping policy. It’s how you go from making a living to making a difference. And, it’s a powerful thing to know, in business and in life.
For me, the endgame was always to make the Internet a better and safer place, especially for children. It was hard work punctuated by long hours, sleepless nights, missed vacations, endless travel, intellectual gymnastics, political jockeying, disappointments, failures and rejections. But there is no greater joy than knowing you helped save the life of even one child who was being brutally abused. And, that endgame, my friends, is something I hope you will each have the joy of experiencing at least once in your career as inside counsel.