What Makes a Good OT Lawyer?

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The Strategic Institute firmly believes that the Other Transactions (OT) Team is the most important part in a successful OT agreement.  The agreement’s success/failure can be directly related to how strongly the team embraces the “spirit” of OTs and their dedication to communicate and work together to complete the mission.  The OT lawyer plays an essential role within the team to encourage innovative approaches and provide guidance to keep the approach consistent with the requirements of the statutes.  Exploring new ideas and using legal authorities in novel ways can be challenging, but some lawyers (by background and inclination) are well suited and can find the work extremely rewarding and exciting.  So, what makes a great OT lawyer?

  1. Recognition that there is a need/reason to do things differently.

It is important for the OT lawyer to fully understand that our current acquisition system “costs too much and takes too long” and that “one size does not fit all.”  Trying to fit everything into a box called procurement, or another box called assistance, or whatever other existing system may be in use by the agency, limits thinking and the possible. Lawyers can become thought and solution leaders.

  1. The ability to unlearn.

It is paramount that a lawyer fully understands the statutes, their history, and how they differ from traditional ways of doing business. It is easy to jump to conclusions about statutory language, as some words seem like those used in the traditional system. The OT statutes have their own legislative history and meaning; they are not defined by analogy to words in the traditional system in statute or regulation. For a lawyer steeped in the traditional system there is an element of unlearning needed to be vitally effective with OTs.

  1. Educate, educate, educate.

Top leadership, program managers, comptrollers and contracting offices need to know something new and different is afoot. Some will be willing to embrace this but still need assurance that “new and different” is still going to be legal and responsible. Thus, an OT lawyer needs to be part educator, part project advocate and even part cheerleader. “New and different” can easily falter and slide back into something very akin to business as usual.

  1. A keen understanding of the agreement vision and goals.

The lawyer needs to spend time with the project manager to really understand their vision of the project and help craft the strategy to accomplish it. Agreement design starts with goals that inform its structure, not preconceived notions that limit agreement structure.  Attitudes like “just say no” and “I’m not sure” do not meet the challenges our country currently faces.  The OT model is freedom of contract, not a highly regulated purchasing system.

  1. Provide top cover and leadership for your team.

A lawyer held in high regard has a unique superpower: the ability to argue and convince others that the law permits the actions of the team. Nothing inspires a team more than a leader who is willing to go to bat for them with a “can do” attitude.


This brief list is hardly definitive.  Lawyers can find additional resources about appropriate instruments for R&D here.