What I do.

This is an actual quote from a letter I recently saw. 

The purpose of the legal function in a business enterprise is to define its relationships to various internal and external stakeholders and to create incentives for stable, strategic and proactive longer-term behaviors over reactive short-term ones by skillfully anticipating and managing opportunity and risk.

No kidding.  That’s what it says. 

I’m not telling you who wrote the letter because my intention is not to mock the style.  (It was appropriate in context, since the letter was directed to attorneys.)  Besides, the letter wasn’t about defining liability risk management (it was about improving legal services to businesses).  But in a succinct (if formal) way, that sentence states what a lawyer’s management of a client’s business liability risks is generally supposed to accomplish. 

You have a business.  It is successful.  It is successful because you take risks.  You’re not stupid about it.  There is simply some level of risk in the product you sell, the service you provide, the things you build.  You can’t avoid the risks which are inherent in what you do or sell (well, you can, but that would require you to go out of business).  But, you can control them. So, you take controlled risks, and you take them because they are just plain part of what you do.  You carefully design and manufacture your product, or you distribute products which you have determined to be safe and well suited to your customers’ needs.  You hire skilled workers, or you train them to be, and you require them to follow appropriate safety guidelines.  You pay attention to potential safety hazards on your business premises.  You’re just plain careful.  

You would worry a bit less if you could feel confident that you have considered and, to the extent possible, controlled, every potential risk.  The risk you feel the least confident about is the risk of legal liability.  It worries you because it’s hard to pin down and it just doesn’t seem as controllable, no matter how careful you are.  That’s the kind of worry that can keep any business owner awake at night, particularly if someone has ever used the “sue” or “lawsuit” words in some way connected to your business.  The legal liability risk landscape seems to keep changing, and you’re not sure if you are keeping up.  Every so often, you hear or read about a lawsuit filed against some business or another, and it makes you a little nervous.  Plus, every time you turn around a customer, client, vendor, contractor or subcontractor, landlord, equipment supplier, etc. is asking you to sign something, and those documents always seem to have indemnity provisions, insurance requirements, disclaimers, liability waivers, attorney fees clauses and then some.  You’ve been careful to work with a good commercial insurance broker so you are pretty confident that you’ve covered all the bases there, but you want to be sure that you are indeed covered for the liability you are assuming under those documents, and it would sure be nice to know that your own transactional documents eliminate, transfer or control your legal liability risks (without putting the kibosh on every potential deal, of course).  

You have a job to do, a business to run, employees to train and supervise, a building to construct, a product to sell.  You just don’t have the time to go to law school.  So, you hire someone who did.  Like me.  And then I worry about your legal liability risks.  But only long enough to figure out and evaluate what they are.  Then, I control, manage and solve them.  That’s what I do. 

How is it done?  Well, it will take more than one blog post to explain that!

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