Did Your Law School Prepare You For The Coronavirus?

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As COVID-19, a novel coronavirus strain that has not been previously identified in humans, spreads around the world, it is often up the office of general counsel to help companies be ready, stay nimble, and continue to thrive during the epidemic. This crisis highlights the increasingly critical role for, and impact of corporate counsel in, the modern world. In my informal survey of about fifty general counsels, here are the top five ways that they are planning to help their companies during a potential coronavirus outbreak.

Interpreting And Implementing The Guidelines

Did your law school prepare you to interpret and implement guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization, and other public health institutions? The office of general counsel often leads internal responses to health crises to ensure that everyone is informed, prepared, and productive.

Protecting Contract Assets 

The most important assets and relationships in the company are contractual. They form the skeleton of any successful enterprise. And interpreting them is key to that success. For example, including a force majeure clause, a contract provision that allows a party to suspend or terminate the performance of its obligations under certain circumstances, has become the new normal in contractual agreements. Interpreting this largely dormant provision in your contract can make a huge difference in a company’s profits, reputation, and critical business relationships.

Revamping Internal Policies

Offices of general counsel are being tasked with proposing various coronavirus-related policies. These range from office etiquette policies to travel policies and a variety of others. Communicating these with clarity in a way that is legal, fair, and ethical across the board is no small challenge.

Assuring Work-Arrangement Readiness

Helping employees navigate confusing and uncertain times is also critical. For example, the coronavirus epidemic has acutely raised the issue of proper remote-working arrangement readiness. Does your company have proper policies in place? Does it have the proper technology to facilitate a consistent productive working day where teammates working from home are accountable and feel connected across the globe?

Updating The Business Continuity Plans

It is essential to have business continuity or systems of prevention and recovery to deal with potential threats to a company. They enable ongoing operations before and during execution of disaster recovery. If your business has a significant global presence, chances are your company has had to actively think through how to mitigate an impact. The office of general counsel often leads, or at a minimum support, this critical endeavor.

The rise of the modern general counsel movement is here to stay. In-house lawyers are uniquely positioned to lead companies through coronavirus and another unexpected challenges. Their ability to navigate novel and unusual obstacles, provide correct and consistent guidance, and make sure that the company is prepared are only some of the ways the robust office of general counsel is increasingly indispensable to every company.

Olga V. Mack is the CEO of Parley Pro, a next-generation contract management company that has pioneered online negotiation technology. Olga embraces legal innovation and had dedicated her career to improving and shaping the future of law. She is convinced that the legal profession will emerge even stronger, more resilient, and more inclusive than before by embracing technology. Olga is also an award-winning general counsel, operations professional, startup advisor, public speaker, adjunct professor, and entrepreneur. Olga founded the Women Serve on Boards movement that advocates for women to participate on corporate boards of Fortune 500 companies. Olga also co-founded SunLaw, an organization dedicated to preparing women in-house attorneys to become general counsels and legal leaders, and WISE to help female law firm partners become rainmakers. She authored Get on Board: Earning Your Ticket to a Corporate Board Seat and Fundamentals of Smart Contract Security. You can email Olga at olga@olgamack.com or follow her on Twitter @olgavmack. 

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