In this column, I’m presenting you with a gift: I’m ghost-writing for you a law firm brochure. I hereby grant all copyright interest in my brochure to you. Feel free to reproduce the following brochure, print it up, attach your firm’s logo, mail or e-mail the brochure to clients and potential clients, and wait for business to beat a path to your door.
It’s yours, free of charge, courtesy of Above the Law and yours truly. Don’t say we’ve never done anything for you….
On [fill in date], Congress passed a bill. The President signed the bill into law on [fill in different, later date]. The law becomes effective on [fill in yet a third date. Sorry: I realize this is more work than you'd anticipated. What can I say? Business development is hard work.]
The new law dramatically changes the old law. Indeed, the new law contains certain provisions: [fill in bullet points listing main topics covered by new law]. We’re pleased to announce that we at the law firm of Bigg & Mediocre have created a “New Law Rapid Response Team” to answer all of your questions about the new law.
Our Rapid Response Team has carefully analyzed the new law. Here’s the Team’s advice about how your corporation should proceed:
1. Be sure to obey the new law. Appendices A and B to this brochure contain, respectively, the text of the new law and our Bigg & Mediocre summary of the law for quick reference. [Note: Actually creating Appendix B is optional. Don't strain yourself.]
2. There are penalties for failing to comply with the new law. Those penalties include, among other things, the possibility that someone will sue you — for damages! or fines! or something! — for violating the law. This makes it vitally important that you obey the new law.
3. Bigg & Mediocre strongly recommends that you train your employees to comply with the new law. By taking this critically important step, your firm will increase the likelihood that it actually obeys the new law, thereby minimizing your risk of being penalized for having violated the law.
4. Train your managers about the new law and how to implement it. This will enable your managers to answer questions that lower-level employees ask about the new law.
5. Take complaints relating to the subject matter of the new law seriously. Implement a system for reporting complaints and addressing them. This will enhance your compliance with the new law and help to establish that your corporation acted in good faith to try to heed the new law’s terms.
6. Review all of your existing policies to be sure that they comply with the new law. If your existing policies do not comply with the new law, revise your policies.
7. The new law may be amended from time to time in the future. Be sure to watch for amendments to the new law, and periodically review your corporate policies to be sure they account for any future amendments.
8. This new law creates a treacherous landscape, which can be navigated only by truly experienced outside lawyers, such as us. This is not a field for novices or morons, such as you and everyone else who works at your company. Accordingly, we recommend that you retain experienced counsel to assist you — counsel who have not merely read the law, but who have studied it and taken the time to think carefully about its implications, as this brochure demonstrates we have. Indeed, we at Bigg & Mediocre have one of the world’s leading practices in advising companies about all kinds of laws. It’s what we do — all day, every day. The Bigg & Mediocre Rapid Response Team stands ready to put that experience to work for you.
In the unlikely event that this is not self-evident, please note: The foregoing brochure does not constitute legal advice. Indeed, we’re hard-pressed to call this “advice” at all. For legal advice, please contact members of the Bigg & Mediocre Rapid Response Team, whose names and contact information we list below.
[List names here. Don't forget to include the name and phone number of the relevant practice leader at your firm, even though he hasn't yet read the law and probably never will. You'll never hear the end of it if you leave him out.]
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I’ve obviously tucked a hidden message into the preceding parody (Or is it sarcasm? Or perhaps vitriol?): When a new law becomes effective, it does make sense to alert clients to the development. Clients appreciate it, and those clients may in fact need advice. But you’re not exactly impressing your readers when you send out a brochure (written by a dozen “authors”) that resembles what I just cranked out in a half hour on a Saturday morning, showing my keen understanding of a “law” that’s both generic and non-existent.
If you include even a whisper that there’s a sentient human being at the helm of your brochure, you’ll stand out from the crowd. Say something — anything — that isn’t the usual pablum. Perhaps: “The new law may have an unintended consequence” — and identify it. Or: “This law may interact with another law in an important way.” Or: “An industry association has announced that it will be filing a constitutional challenge to certain provisions in the law. If your corporation is interested in supporting that effort, call X.” Or, for the truly industrious: “Bigg & Mediocre is launching a blog to monitor developments relating to this new law. If you’d like to subscribe to our blog, and thus to receive periodic updates about how the new law is being implemented, click here.” But, unless you enjoy being perceived as one of the crowd, please don’t tell us only that “a law was passed; you should obey it; we can help.” Been there; heard that; not impressed.
Mark Herrmann is the Vice President and Chief Counsel – Litigation at Aon, the world’s leading provider of risk management services, insurance and reinsurance brokerage, and human capital and management consulting. He is the author of The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Practicing Law (affiliate link). You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.