Form an Alliance with Legal
May 27, 2022 2:01 pm
It seems like for the past few weeks it has been raining non-stop where I am. I don't mind the rain, but it keeps me from checking on my bees which I don't care for.
Also, for the past few weeks, maybe months, it seems that most of my time is spent working with my client's legal team. I'd say this is something that I've done more of as the years go on.
Thinking back through my career, something stands out to me.
I recall every place I've been trying to avoid working with the legal teams.
Legal and Infosec tend to get a reputation as people who get in the way of building software, but as time goes by I have come to the opinion that people and groups who hold that opinion are going to have consistent issues.
I've made it a point to make contact with these often maligned groups early and partner with them on what we're working on. Sometimes it's as simple as terms of service drafting, getting insight into existing contracts and conflicts, or even awareness of patents and trademarks.
Since working early with them I've found it has been fruitful, educational, and the foundation of a great working relationship. They are always thrilled that someone came to them before there was a problem. They partner more on problem-solving and risk reversal instead of remediation.
They find ways forward.
The benefits here are that when my clients launch products with support from the legal team, we've eliminated tons of risk from being sued or worse.
I watch other teams continue to avoid them and pretend there are no risks or consequences and it's terrifying. Allow me to give a quick example most companies have.
When there's a software product that needs data, one of the first ideas that a group will offer is to scrape the data off other sites. I can pretty much guarantee that those sites have Terms of Service prohibiting it, and there are plenty of cases of companies getting sued for it.
How many scraping projects do you have going?
If you want to calculate the risk here, the formula is (Settlement Cost) x (Probability).
You may remember that scene in Fight Club where he explains the recall thing that if the settlement cost times the failure rate is less than a recall they don't do it.
That is the risk formula.
A partnership with legal can almost eliminate the probability. Ignoring it makes it skyrocket.
So my plea to all of us is to stop waiting until it's too late to partner with all the folks it takes to ship a high-quality product for our customers and business. It starts with a simple phone call.