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How to Combat the Legal Response Syndrome

From our colleague in Australia, Tony Jaques, director of Issue Outcomes Pty Ltd…

There’s a good reason why legal advice is important in crisis management. Because just about every crisis or potential crisis has a legal component.

But at the same time just about no crisis or potential crisis is ever solely about legal matters. Failure to recognise that leads to what I call the Legal Response Syndrome – where an organisation treats every crisis as if legal considerations override all others.

Of course, it’s important that all legal angles are appropriately addressed. And of course, you need to seek and listen to legal advice. No responsible executive should proceed without fully appreciating the legal position. Moreover, executives and boards have a statutory obligation to act in the best interests of investors. That’s spelled out by law.

It’s also perfectly understandable that you tend to listen to lawyers. After all, CEOs and the Boards they report to must be well versed in all legal responsibilities and requirements of compliance and fiduciary duty (not to mention they may be paying handsomely for legal advice).

However, the Legal Response Syndrome arises when legal counsel is allowed to trump all other advice, be it operations, business, marketing, human resources, financial or communications. It’s when managers simply default to “Let’s just go with what the lawyers say.”

The lawyer may be acting as a litigator dispensing caution or as a counsellor helping to find team solutions. So, to help combat the Legal Response Syndrome, it is essential to fully understand the difference between legal advice and business advice.

For the rest of Tony’s article, please click here.

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