Sun GC’s updated “Reebok Rules”

Sixteen years ago I had just started a new job as Pella Corporation‘s first general counsel. Soon after that the ACCA Docket published an article by Reebok’s then-general counsel, Jack Douglas entitled Reebok Rules, in which he described twenty-three guidelines to help in-house lawyers “focus on the client’s objectives” and remember “the priorities which will keep us successful and challenged in our jobs.” That article was immensely helpful in understanding what I needed to do to be successful as a new general counsel. I keep a copy of that article handy and regularly recommend it to lawyers beginning their in-house careers.

Sun’s GC Mike Dillon recently posted his own updated list of ten rules to help guide in-house attorneys in Life is Different In-House. Not surprisingly, several of them mention using new technology that can help us to connect, collaborate, and be more efficient.

 I say not surprisingly because sixteen years ago email was still a new thing. One of our primary law firms actually loaned me a Mac that they used to send email to me since their system wasn’t compatible with Windows-based email. At that time I also had a Windows machine on my desk, so the Mac was set in a corner of the office. It was not an ideal situation, and I recall being ready to toss the Mac out the window on a number of occassions when it didn’t seem to be working properly (which could have been due to technology problems or operator error), which of course usually happened when important deadlines were looming.

 We’ve come a long way in sixteen years when it comes to technology. But most of Douglas’s and Dillon’s rules focus on relationships rather than technology. That’s something that doesn’t change.

One of the most striking differences between Douglas’s original Reebok Rules and Dillon’s updated rules is how lawyers’ attitudes toward the “n word” have changed. Of course I am referring to the word “no.” Douglas’s rules included “Eliminate the ‘No’ word from your vocabulary,” and I think many in-house lawyers took that to heart sixteen years ago. Unfortunately, following that rule also seems to have landed a number of GCs in jail. In light of the higher standards attorneys are now being held to, Dillon’s new rule is “Sometimes, you have to say ‘no’.”

Both the original Reebok Rules and Dillon’s updated rules should be required reading for in-house counsel.

David Munn

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