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Pragmatic Innovation – Strike a Balance

The technology industry moves at the speed of light. Yearning to be a part of, stay ahead of, and possibly be the creator of the “next big thing” drives tech companies to produce original, futuristic, and exciting ideas for their products and services. The overall buzzing energy of the industry leads to eager entrepreneurs and employees that sometimes throw caution to the wind in pursuit of innovation.

Entering into this buzzing industry as an objective-thinking attorney can be difficult—and sometimes strange.

This month, the New York University School of Law offered a networking event called Legal Madness, where attorneys involved in the start-up industry could submit anonymous stories about the wildest experiences they’ve encountered. These scenarios were performed by an acting troupe, giving the audience a live (and hilarious) insight into the clashing of fast-paced, idea-oriented minds with objective, rule-abiding opinions.

Here are a few of our favorite unusual scenarios that exemplify how innovation is fantastic, but sometimes ambition must be met with practicality.

  1. The Frazzled First Day

An attorney was approached, and ultimately hired for, an in-house position by the CEO of a start-up. Excited to begin this new chapter in his career, the attorney arrived on Monday morning to an office in disarray and a team that had absolutely no idea who he was.

Turns out that at 6 a.m. that very morning, the board of the company held an emergency meeting and fired the CEO...who hadn't told anyone in the office (including the board) that he'd made the hire. So, when the attorney arrived on his first day, no one knew that he was even an employee.

Once the confusion abated, the attorney’s hire was confirmed by the board and he began work. However, the job he stepped into was not the job he signed up for.

Since the tech start-up was rapidly moving in a new direction from the previous business model, major changes were set to be implemented around the business, including massive layoffs. The attorney was tasked with carrying out these layoffs—and within his first few months, he even had to personally fire members of the C-suite.

This attorney thought that he was walking into a well-established, well-formatted tech company for which he could provide legal services. However, the nature of the tech industry is fast and unpredictable, which contributed to the company’s accelerated change of pace and change of leadership.

  1. A Stolen Heart, a Stolen Computer

We've all heard the expression "once bitten, twice shy." While this saying usually refers to love, in this instance, it's far more relevant to a company's property.

 

One day, an attorney witnessed her entire office become smitten with a charming, charismatic man who sauntered in and captured the hearts of those he met. Apparently, due to his alluring demeanor—chatting, laughing, and flirting—nobody questioned his presence in the office.

After his jaunty escapades around the office, this man ended up stealthily and successfully stealing the CEOs laptop out from under their nose. Turns out, he was not an employee of this company at all, and the company’s employees did not follow proper cybersecurity protocol when an unknown man charmed his way into the space and navigated out, escaping suspicion. 

  1. We Didn’t Start the Fire

A hardworking attorney entered into employment with a start-up and immediately began putting out fires left and right—literally. This start-up had a very large manufacturing area in their office building and, in the spirit of innovation, decided to open that space up to share with anyone who needed it for their production.

Although a good idea in theory, this company decided to open its space to anyone for just $20 per month. Rent that low allowed almost anyone to walk in off the street to use their facility, and many people who were not serious entrepreneurs or high-caliber businesses flooded the office, creating an extremely unsafe environment.

The attorney warned the business that this was going poorly and they needed to raise the rent—yet this advice went unheeded.

Then, one day, the attorney smelled something burning and went down to the empty manufacturing floor to find a hanging t-shirt ablaze, left unattended by a renter. Apparently, one of the renters had left their drying t-shirt too close to the heat lamp and then left the building. The attorney himself then sprinted down to the floor and put out the fire.

Even if the intention to aid other entrepreneurs is good, when a trusted attorney advises against an idea due to safety, you should listen.

Conclusion

This event was hosted to allow attorneys to blow off some steam and expose the wild stories they’ve dealt with as the voice of reason in a sea of big ideas. However, along with the entertainment factor brought about by the acting troupe, there were also valuable lessons to be learned from these scenarios:

  1. Sometimes, this industry is going to throw you for a loop and take you on the rollercoaster ride of your life, so strap in!
  2. Place cybersecurity at the forefront of your employee onboarding and training, and invest in ongoing education. Otherwise, a heartbreaker could walk in and hit the mark.
  3. Always listen to your hired voice of reason. Or at least always keep a fire extinguisher handy.