I have to confess that I went through a phase of addiction. To Scrabulous on Facebook. I played it with my friends in Australia, and with my wife sitting across me in the lounge. I now have it under control. I only have about 2 games going at the same time and only play at night. Now it seems as if this will be taken away. By Mattel and Hasbro – the owners of Scrabble. And, surprise, surprise, the fight is being led by the corporate lawyers.

I am not surprised that the lawyers are heading this up. They’ll take any case if they can smell that they might win. I guess it comes from losing so often. And corporate lawyers are especially pathetic. Couldn’t make it in the courtroom or on their own. So decided to be the ‘fact-checker’ that cross the t’s and dot the i’s. Boy, do I have a special dislike for them.

They have been at the heart of almost every failure that I have worked on. Mind you, not failure because of our work or advice. But failure because they didn’t agree with our way or our advice. Let me give you a classic example.

I worked with a large company that was the target of a major trademark campaign by activists and an African government. Our advice? Just agree to sign the agreement they want you to sign. Yes, you might have a legal case, but most of these cases have nothing to do with whether you are legally right or wrong. Being legally right does not equal morally right. Legal justice does not mean doing what is just. The campaigners will just argue that the system is in favor of ‘Big Business’ and that the little guys always get the short end of the stick. It’s a ‘no win’ for the company.

And, most importantly, you can’t win a popularity contest with a respectable campaigning non-profit or an African country. Everyone got this, except the lawyers. They argued that it could set a precedent. That it might (yes might) hurt the company – they were wrong. So the company continued to fight the legal case. And we continued to argue that they need to just sign the bloody agreement – their well earned reputation was getting hammered. We eventually told them that they WILL sign an agreement. Not because we say so, but that was just the way it works out in the end in these campaigns – hey, I headed up a few campaigns while at Oxfam.

It dragged out for more than a year. The company got hammered. Their reputation was shot. The end result? They agreed to sign the agreement…

I continue to fight the corporate lawyers at every turn. We argue – just be transparent and tell people everything. The lawyers? No, can’t do that – too risky. (I bet you that the tobacco industry got the same advice from their lawyers from day one). We argue – sign an agreement with the local community that you will respect their rights. The lawyers? No, can’t do that – too risky. We argue – be open at the board level about pay. The lawyers? No, can’t do that – too risky. At every turn we bump into them. This roadblock stopping all progress. And the end result? The lawyers are wrong, the company’s reputation is damaged, and we look like asses for being right.

Why could the lawyers not be told to shut the hell up and let the ‘money makers’ in the company run things. I have had two CEO’s tell the lawyers to stop telling him what he can’t do and rather help him make things possible. Instead of stopping things from happening, make sure that every legal angle is covered to make things happen. Be part of progress, don’t stop it. And in both cases the company benefited from the result. Better relations, more respected brands, and innovative changes.

What should Hasbro and Mattel have done? Tell the lawyers to shut the hell up. And ask the marketing people to speak to the developers about getting their name attached to Scrabulous. Imagine – 500,000 free hits every single day. Free advertising on one of the most popular social networks available. Instead? 500,000 potential campaigners against Hasbro and Mattel. Instead of free advertising and potential clients? Free dislike and loss of clients. I for one won’t be replacing my Scrabble game soon. And won’t buy the game for my friends as I was planning on doing. And I blame the corporate lawyers for that.

Can someone just shoot the corporate lawyers so we can start making some money and enjoy a better life.

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