Challenges For Lawyers: Stepping out of the Naysayer Role and Becoming a Real Business Partner

This series of reflections are based on a work developed as complementary handouts for workshops on M&A topics realised originally for the AIJA Winter Session of 2020.

As a business psychological consulting team, we would like to contribute to this session
offering you some insights based on our specific studies in social and business psychology
as well as on the experience gained with clients in similar roles to yours.

Starting from the briefing offered us by your colleague, we understood that one of your goals
might be to avoid or step out of the naysayer role.
Being in the position of making clients "follow the rules of the game" exposes lawyers to be seen as lacking in business orientation and understanding. How can lawyers prevent this perception or even turn those aspects into a business development opportunity?

Make it about business, not laws.

It might seem obvious, or impossible on the other side, but the way we frame information makes a huge difference.

Instead of starting with “this is not allowed by this international/local law”, try to refer it to their  business goals; for example, “as you want to maximise your investment and reduce risk,
you need to be aware that…”. You may consider it redundant, but having their business goal
acknowledged makes your client see you as oriented towards it as well.

Make it about their business.

Each corporation, each manager have their own parameter, their own objectives and
preferences. It is never about what is right or wrong, but about their own subjective
perception. Use their parameters as the point of reference and reason to make your point
convincing and solid, to them.

Make it about criteria, not solutions.

First agree on their criteria, then go into solutions or interdictions. For instance, if you have to
interdict contacts with a buyer on a specific matter before a specific phase of the deal, first
align on the need of being as efficient, timely and pragmatic as possible; then signalise that
preliminary coordination might appear not only convenient but even important, but that it
would imply certain consequences and turn out to be inefficient, time-consuming and

Always have some real worst and best practices as examples at hand. Remember that your
client is not one person but an organisation; find allies that are particularly risk-avers and
make them your advocates and sentinels. Then position yourself as the one who is finding
the best possible solution, given their criteria and those restricting laws.

We are well aware that these inputs are just the tip of the iceberg. They are meant as a
teaser and starter for your own reflections.