Helpful Versus Hindering Lawyers - True Business Lawyers

Yesterday while getting some minutes on the elliptical machine, I was re-reading George Lois' advertising book, "What's The Big Idea". Two of the stories really cracked me up, and they led to write this perspective post on lawyers, more from a startup, venture, or new business initiative point of view.

The first story related to the incredible ad success surrounding Naugahyde (a synthetic, leather-like fabric or material), which had a fabricated, Nauga monster persona as part of the campaign. Click here for some pictures of the Nauga. George Lois, in true storytelling form, relates the whole positioning and art behind the Nauga solution. To make a long story short, he relates something to the effect that late in the game when the whole campaign is ready to roll, one of the lawyers raises a point to the effect of (off the top of my mind), "We're concerned that people may think the Nauga is a real animal ... as a consequence, people may be misled into thinking we are selling real leather."

To put things fairly, some forms of advertising (e.g., TV) must definitely be run by lawyer. But who in their sane mind would think that the Nauga was a real animal? Baffled, George relates conducting some primary interviews with regular people, and that the research turns up no one who is confused that the Nauga is a real animal. They think he is crazy for even surveying them. The Nauga goes through, and everyone is lucky that George was there.

The second story has a similar flow. It is related to the logo by Jiffy Lube (see here) and how at the last minute one of the lawyers raises the point that the logo might look like a phallic symbol (and be a showstopper). George disarmed with the laywer with a statement to the effect of, "I don’t know what your peepee is shaped like, but my peepee sure don’t look like that!”. The rest is history, and the logo went through.

I've worked with a number of lawyers, and I definitely prefer the types that help the business development, entrepreneur, & creator-types come up with solutions as opposed to finding every roadblock that will stop a deal. Just finding knowledgeable lawyers that can find holes and weaknesses isn't good enough. The great lawyers, in my mind, are pragmatic problem solvers and solution creators, in addition to being definitive experts in the law. The great ones can engage in a working dialogue and help to calibrate the business risk of pursuing different options.


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