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Music Reviews and Features
Lester Bangs in Buffalo
Lester Bangs in "Almost
The Cure In Concert
Peal Jam In Concert
History of Warner Brothers
People's Bar-B-Que and
through the legal landscape
Savvy firms must
manage legal issues like they do every else.
the Rules or Your Rivals Will. G. Richard Shell. Crown. 288 pages.
If you're young, dumb or naive, you might believe that the law is absolute
and unambiguous, but it's far from it. There are countless interpretations
and wide latitude taken in deciding which laws are applied in almost any
situation. Then there are matters of precedent, politics, prevailing authorities
and more. Laymen may consider them technicalities, but lawyers feast on
these ambiguities and variables.
G. Richard Shell is a professor of legal studies and management at the
Wharton School. He has constructed an engrossing and instructive volume
dealing with the law and how savvy firms and their leaders must plan and
manage legal issues in the same way they handle other important aspects
of their business.
Throughout history, the difference between success and failure is often
a result of dealing with laws and the people who make and enforce them.
Sometimes it's done in illegal or immoral ways, or conducted within the
context and the protection of existing laws and ''normal'' standards of
conduct - or discretion, but bribes and extortion are not infrequent practices.
THE RIGHT ADVOCATE
As we've observed before, it's often a matter of engaging the appropriate
advocate for the company's cause. Whether they're brutish bagmen or Gucci
loafered lobbyists, their clout with governmental gatekeepers frequently
smoothes otherwise bumpy or blocked paths. Campaign contributions, honoraria
and other incentives act to lubricate -- or brake -- the wheels of justice.
Though Shell touches on these areas, the bulk of his text is devoted to
more or less legitimate means of navigating through the legal landscape.
He starts by recounting the case of Henry Ford, whose mass manufacturing
innovations were subject to a legal challenge by an incumbent group of
automobile companies. They claimed that a patent on an internal combustion
engine -- not the one used by Ford -- effectively prevented his company
from making and selling cars. Other companies not a part of the patent-holders
group had capitulated, but Ford held out and ultimately prevailed in the
courts, which ruled that the patent did not apply
Shell goes on to compare Ford's case with that of Shawn Fanning, the inventor
of Napster, the computer file-sharing program. There are similarities,
to be sure, but Shell uses the Napster story to illustrate how pure legalities
are not always the deciding factors. Frequently, there are other issues,
politics, entrenched interests and divergent factors that play into each
case, as there were here, since Napster was shut down.
MORE THAN ANECDOTES
Shell's book isn't just a collection of history lessons. He uses each
anecdote to illustrate, and in some cases advocate, a line of defense
or attack. Though some of the stories involve technical or arcane issues,
he does his best to present his points clearly and in an entertaining
Interesting stuff, all told, and a worthwhile addition to one's business
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