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Damned if they do and damned if they don’t

May 15, 2007

Deb Shindler, editor of WXPNews alludes to complaints about Microsoft’s reliance on "lawyers" in the most recent issue:

Lawyers. Too many of them. I recently read a blog post by an anonymous Microsoft employee that mentioned how the lawyers tie the hands of the rest of the employees. You can’t say anything in public without "running it by the lawyers." You can’t publish anything, including help for software problems, without the approval of the legal department. The focus can’t be on making the best products when it has to be on avoiding litigation. The reason for this is obvious and hearkens back to number 1. When a company becomes so big and successful, it becomes a target for lawsuits. Many of them are unfounded, but it still takes time to defend against them, so the attorneys become the de facto final decision makers. That doesn’t make for a good environment for employees or customers.

I don’t doubt that Microsoft might overly involve lawyers, but I am inclined to lay a fair amount of the blame for this on the legal system they inhabit and those that want to use it to profit at the company’s expense.

Remember this is a company that was compelled to settle an antitrust case against it by the U.S. Justice department for competing in ways found to be unfair. At the time this was a fairly novel application of antitrust law. They were criticized at the time for doing things that "no lawyer" would have allowed them to do.

Similarly, as a deep pocketed technology company they are a target for patent trolls and have suffered from billions of dollars in adverse judgments.

In my world Microsoft wouldn’t need all these lawyers either, but it is hard to find fault with Microsoft for trying to play by the rules that actually exist.

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From → Economics

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