Five words that I hate to hear
September 22, 2010
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Surely any in house lawyer’s heart sinks whenever someone rolls out any variant on the phrase: “But we’ve done it before…”
By saying this, your colleague means either (or both):
- It must be all right to do this, because we’ve implemented the same thing already elsewhere in the business.
- We’ve been trying to hide this from you for ages, but now that you’ve found out you can’t do anything about it.
Well, yes. You know that doing it wrong once doesn’t make it ok the next time, right?
The problem is that by telling them that their particular solution isn’t legal/compliant/in any way sensible, you’re not just telling them to find a different approach to the matter in hand. You’re also telling them to go back and re-do something that was implemented months or years ago, incurring additional time and cost that’s not in anyone’s work plan or budget.
It would help if you’d been asked the first time round, but of course there was no time to do that because the client/director/whatever needed their solution RIGHT NOW. Or maybe one of your colleagues was consulted, but missed the massive illegality that was right in front of them (true story, another time).
So the precedent was set, the momentum is built, and the in house lawyer is set up to be the bad guy again. Time to go on another influencing course…