Rumsfeld’s Rules

Donald Rumsfeld’s Rules (Advice on government, business and life) may have been around for a while, but I only found them today, courtesy of a link in one of Kevin O’Keefe’s tweets and Rick Klau’s weblog. As Rick Klau comments, “They are, put simply, brilliant”. Read them: this is the link.

I particularly enjoyed this one,

Reduce the number of lawyers. They are like beavers. They get in the middle of the stream and dam it up.

Some 30 years ago, I was the gofer to one of the corporate partners in the firm that then employed me. We were advising a merchant bank, in turn advising the independent directors of ATV. It was (or seems) a very long time ago, but I have two vivid memories of that particular transaction.

The first was the appearance, very late one night, of the irrepressible Lew Grade. He, and his cigar, came through the double doors that led off into the Executive Suite at the top of the building. He just wanted to know that we were all being looked after; and as he left, he executed a couple of steps just to let us know that he was still a hoofer at heart.

My second memory, and this was triggered by reading Rumsfeld’s advice about lawyers, was of Robert Holmes à Court walking unannounced into an all parties meeting: clients, merchant bankers, stockbrokers, accountants and a fair number of lawyers. His Bell Group had just emerged as  a buyer. Holmes à Court looked at the suits sitting round the table: there were probably some 20 plus people in the room, and he slowly worked round the table, asking everyone who they were, who they were with, and what they were doing. Depending upon the answer given it was either a “You may leave now” or “You may stay”. All very courteous but nonetheless there was steel in his eyes.

I was one of the last he got to.

“Well, what are you doing?”

“Taking the notes.”

“You had better stay”

And stay I did. Holmes à Court was himself originally a lawyer, and had a very well-developed sense of who and what was needed.

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