Prevention or Repair – What’s your preference?

I read with interest recently a great article that discussed the tension in place in most business manager’s view of the value of legal resources between calling upon legal counsel to prevent and avoid crisis, versus calling the lawyers in after the fact to repair the damage.

Most clients would rather have a guardrail at the top of the hill rather than an ambulance at the bottom.” While that’s undoubtedly true of clients, the professional culture in law (and other fields) tends to value the “brain surgeon” work responding to crises more than the civil engineer (or worse, “commodity”) work that simply prevents calamity. (

It is not surprising that most clients think first about, and most lawyers primarily sell, the brain surgery fix aspect of what lawyers can do rather than considering instead the value of strategic avoidance of crisis through good planning and compliance management. Given that all most lawyers are taught in law school, and the early stages of our careers, is how to craft pleadings to allege how our clients have been damaged, it is not surprising that most of our clients do not think first about picking up the phone to discuss how crisis can be avoided as part of the business process instead of waiting for trouble to brew before reaching out for legal advice. 

As the rules of engagement and knowledge of details required to achieve compliance with the ever increasingly complex minefield of business regulation reach unmanageable proportions, savvy clients embrace the value of partnering with their attorneys early and regularly to stay our of harms way and to temper and mitigate their exposures when conflict rears it’s ugly head.

More and more I am finding clients calling to ask me to build a guard rail at the top of hill, rather than waiting for the need to have triage performed amidst the rubble at the bottom of the cliff.