[O]nly twelve new destroyers and twelve new submarines had been ordered. [First Sea Lord John "Jacky"] Fisher considered this grossly inadequate and convened the November 3 meeting to change course. His most urgent concern was the construction of submarines; that same day he placed orders with British shipbuilders for an additional twenty. Then, staring at the Admiralty Director of Contracts, he threatened to "make his wife a widow and his house a dunghill if he brought paper work or red tape into the picture; he wanted submarines, not contracts . . . . If he did not get them within eight months, he would commit hara-kiri." At this [Commodore Roger] Keyes, who was present, made the mistake of laughing. Fisher turned on Keyes "with a ferocious glare, and said, 'If anyone thwarts me he had better commit hara-kiri too.'"
For those in-house counsel who feel pressured to entirely sacrifice their legal judgements to the business demands of their non-lawyer managers, this should help to put things into perspective. Yes, the business and legal objectives we seek to accommodate can be difficult at times to balance appropriately, but:
- Your company is not a sovereign nation -- it's just a gathering of people with a common business purpose;
- Despite what your head of sales told you at your last management retreat or company meeting, you are not really at war for your very survival; and
- He may be scary, but your CEO is not as scary as Jacky Fisher.