On Monday and Tuesday, we posted warning signs attorneys should look for to see "it" coming. Here are warning signs four and five.
4. “That’s the other side’s problem.” I hear this from time to time, and I bet many lawyers do. These two statements always are cause to take a timeout:
• “That’s not our problem; it’s the other side’s problem”
• “Let them worry about that.”
When people start saying things like that, ask whether they’re doing so because the statements are true or because the underlying issue involves unpleasant facts that it’s easier not to acknowledge. Recall Ben Franklin’s wise advice: “Half a truth is often a great lie.”
Litigators and deal makers hear phrases like these. Events are percolating along, and someone on the team asks, “Should we be doing this?” or “Does the other party know about this issue?” When the question answers itself, it’s time for the lawyer to ask whether truth or convenience is driving the client’s position. Convenience never trumps ethics.
5. “Everybody else is doing it.” Here is just some of what I have heard in 31 years of practicing law:
• “Companies in my industry don’t pay overtime, so why should I?”
• “The guy with the company down the road fired the union organizer among the employees, and nothing happened to him.”
• “Don’t tell me what I can’t do; I’m paying you for telling me what I can do.”
Those who win the race to the bottom still lose. Stephen Cope, in his book “The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling” explains that “The Bhagavad Gita” teaches that it is better to follow one’s true dharma and fail than to follow others’ false dharma of the others and succeed monetarily. And, let’s face it: The truth comes out in the end.