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What It Means to Be Your Consigliere

Contrary to popular perception, “consiglieres” date from times long before the 20th century. The term derives from the Latin “consiliarius” – a counselor. Every leader needs an advisor skilled in what the law requires – and what the law allows.

Let’s start off with a few provisos. Bay Oak Law is a “classical” consigliere. It doesn’t arrange for horse heads in people’s beds. So what does it mean for Bay Oak Law to be a consigliere to a business?

It means to be absolutely loyal to the best interests of the enterprise – even if it means that you get cut out of decisionmaking for financial or other reasons. It means giving your best advice, even if it is not the popular advice. Every leader needs someone who will challenge assumptions with absolute loyalty. However, it also means respecting and carrying out the final decision of the leader, even if the leader doesn’t take your advice. That requires a great deal of trust, for both the attorney and the business leader. The trust must arise out of the divergent roles. The attorney-consigliere has a positive duty to look for legal problems, even if – especially if – those laws conflict with the leader’s desires. It does the leader no good to seek an outcome that puts the leader into a worse position. The consigliere has to serve the patron’s interest, even if it is not the leader’s desire – but understand that the patron’s decision is the only one that counts. Too many lawyers misunderstand their role – they are advice givers and

Small businesses have to cope with a confusing cornucopia of challenges: competitors, financial pressure, human resources, having a normal life. A good consigliere helps the patron balance that dynamic mix, while staying in the background.

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