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Reebok Rules for Lawyers

Lawyers' lives are governed by rules: Rules of Evidence, Rules of Civil Procedure, Ethics Rules ... the list goes on. In fact, it seems that lawyers have grown so dependent on rules that, apparently, Reebok's former general counsel, Jack Douglass, saw the need to create Reebok Rules for Lawyers, which guides in-house counsel on how to deal with their corporate clients.

Though the Reebok Rules are almost 15 years old, Matt Dillon, Sun Microsystems' GC, reprised them recently in an early post, and yesterday, Peter Lattman of Wall Street Journal Law Blog discussed some of the Reebok Rules here. Some of Lattman's favorites:

    * 4. Return Phone Calls Promptly: One of the most important aspects of the in-house counsel/client relationship is making sure that you return phone calls promptly, and respond to memos, hallway requests and other requests for legal advice on a timely basis. Nothing is worse than a client who cannot get in touch with his or her lawyer. I know, because I am frequently the client trying to call an outside lawyer.

    * 22. Give answers: Get to the Point: Give answers. If [Reebok’s former CEO] Paul Fireman had prepared this article, he might have started with this “rule.” Nothing upsets Paul more than a detailed analysis of a problem with no answers -- for any reason -- even, or especially if, it is because it is outside your “area.” If you don’t know, find out who does. Always make a recommendation or provide requested information and be clear about it. Your client may disagree and that’s ok, but make sure you answer the question.

In general, the theme of the Reebok Rules is that in-house lawyers should act more like businesspeople: They should famliarize themself with the workings of the corporation, hone business judgment, get out and wander the halls and meet people. All good advice. Still, I wonder whether the Reebok Rules, particularly Rule 2 ("Eliminate the word no from your vocabulary") haven't become a little dated in the aftermath of the Enron fiasco. After all, Enron's outside law firm, Vinson & Elkins, just paid $30 million to settle claims that it turned a blind eye on Enron's misconduct. I agree that lawyers who advise corporate clients need to solve problems and operate proactively. But at the end of the day, lawyers -- whether in-house or outside -- have different obligations from businesspeople. If lawyers don't draw the line for business clients, who will?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on August 25, 2006 at 05:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

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