This Chicago Business Lawyer's Suggested Approach to Business Law

Beware anyone who seems to always or instantly have the answers at hand when it comes to your corporate, contract, litigation or other commercial law questions. Because any executive or responsible business law attorney should know that the first response usually should be: "It depends." Because there are so many variables, and every client has different objectives and needs, each project or situation really demands a certain amount of custom tailoring.

Now, that's not meant to be an excuse either for taking forever to make a decision or sky high legal bills. (In fact, my early years focused on regulatory matters convinced me that it is counterproductive to spend too much time or money on legal issues, in part, because everyone loses focus and gets confused by complexity.) The point is that for a prudent balance of quality, risk management, speed, effort and expense when it comes to legal management, there are some basic default principles to always consider - purposefully but quickly.

  1. Follow the 80-20 Rule (unless this case is the exception). This is so important there are countless other short-hand expressions for this concept: keep it simple stupid; don't let the tail wag the dog; the point of diminishing returns; and don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. In essence, usually focus only on the most important, common and fundamental points.
  2. Plain is Beautiful. Clear, simple English is much to be preferred to archaic or dense legalese. Much, if not most, of what business lawyers do involves words and communicating meaning. So, more can be less if it makes everyone work harder.
  3. Start Near the Finish. Lawyers often are involved in adversarial and sometimes hostile situations - negotiating an M&A or licensing deal, defending a governmental investigation or prosecuting a complaint. But, that doesn't mean you have to be afraid of working with the other. Rather than adopting a scorched earth policy and beginning with a totally one-sided draft, it usually is faster, better and cheaper to open with something closer to a fair or "market" version. Of course, you can keep the key business points favorable to you at the outset. But, by It sends a message that you are about effectiveness.
  4. Size Does Not Always Matter. We often consciously or not scale our efforts according to the size of a transaction or claim. However, there are times when the complexity or risks bear no relationship to the amounts involved. For example, a small real estate purchase has the potential for environmental liabilities well in excess of the price.

Unless there's a good reason not to, this is how we try do it at my Chicago and suburban business law firm, whether it is a start-up, deal or lawsuit at stake. We try to concentrate our and your resources where it really counts, by quickly and carefully customizing our efforts to the circumstances.