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Entre nous, what really tickles you about being the legal titan of a company? Your oversized office? That string of fancy titles that follows your name? The keys to the executive bathroom? Oh, let’s not be so predictable! The real fun of being general counsel is being the dumper rather than the dumpee. Yes, it’s all about seduction and power. So are we talking about a platoon of nubile creatures chasing you through the halls of corporate headquarters? Get a grip! Welcome to your reality: a bevy of middle-aged law firm partners, drooling by your door. Remember those snooty white-shoe firms that didn’t give you a call back when you were in law school? Well, wake up Cinderella, the shoe is now on your foot. Since you’ve ascended the GC throne, those firms have been throwing themselves at you. For five minutes of your time and a crack at getting — or keeping — those zillion dollars worth of your business, they’ll take you to lunch, get you tickets to “The Producers,” and lick the lint off your suit. So many firms, so little time — no wonder it’s hard to be faithful to the same outside counsel day in and day out. Sooner or later you’ll probably want to trade in your old outside counsel for a new, trophy model. Which brings us to this thorny question: What’s the best way to fire your outside lawyer? After all, ditching your old counsel can be as traumatic (or not) as leaving your spouse or your shrink. So for those who feel a little lost about how to sever ties with their consigliere, some suggestions: � Do it with food. If you’re a mensch-type GC, you’ll want to deliver the bad news personally. Take your lawyer to a decent restaurant, talk about the good times, then broach the subject gently. Pick a discreet, corner table so that when the tears flow, there won’t be any embarrassing scenes. � Say it in a letter. If you can’t stomach the hurt looks that come with a face-to-face breakup, sever your relations the old-fashioned way: Write a “Dear John” letter. Be empathetic: “I feel your pain … firing you hurts me more than it hurts you.” � Press the “send” button. Though not nearly as classy as a traditional goodbye letter, e-mail delivers a fast, clean blow. But be careful what you say; e-mails can reproduce as quickly as billable hours. So be cool and direct and save the invective for a less-incriminating medium. � Leave a message. If e-mail isn’t your style and you dread confrontation, leave a voicemail message at three o’clock in the morning. But given the crazy hours firm lawyers work, that drone you’re dodging might just pick up. And with caller I.D., it’s hard to just hang up. � Pick a fight. Complain about anything — the sloppy due diligence, the overlooked IRS ruling, the bad coffee at closing. Make noises about how you’re not getting your money’s worth. Anything can be used as a pretext to fire the sucker. � Find a conflict. Somewhere, somehow, there’s always someone in the firm who has a connection with one of your opponents. Stretch if you must; the employment histories of the firm’s night cleaning staff are fair game. � Play the jerk. If you harbor latent hostile feelings about your lawyer, now’s payback time. Tell him the relationship is not really dead, but that you just need time to mull things over. Leave with these words, “I’ll call you sometime. …,” then disappear. � Stiff ‘em. You don’t write, you don’t call, you don’t send flowers. And you don’t pay the last bill. But before you play this game, just be sure all your company’s files are back in your hot little hands. As for those pangs of guilt about axing your lawyer: Fuhgeddaboudit! Gone are the days when a company and a law firm mated for life — that went out with Selectric typewriters and white-gloved secretaries with Seven Sisters degrees. Besides, there’s only one top legal honcho at even the biggest companies — while law firm lawyers come $500-an-hour a dozen.

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