It’s become clear that in dealing with COVID-19 and its effect on the world around us we may all be in the same storm, but we are certainly not in the same boat. Our current situations — how we are able to respond to the virus and shutdowns — vary enormously. When you’re caught in a storm, it makes a difference whether you’re on a raft, inflatable boat, canoe, kayak, or jet ski; similarly, several qualities about your company will affect its experiences in this new reality. Some have been able to weather the storm better than others, and based on my informal survey, those more successful ones tend to share three basic and fundamental factors:
One, do employees and members of your legal department have a laptop? This simple decision to distribute laptops to employees makes the difference between freedom to work from anywhere and being chained to a desk. It turns out that in the pandemic, having a portable office that allows your employees to transition seamlessly to remote work without you, the general counsel, needing to purchase and distribute laptops is a major time and resource saver. Not to mention the effect it has on the company’s morale and anxiety level.
Two, do employees and members of your legal department have access to stable, reliable internet. One general counsel explained to me that he feels completely unsupported because his executive assistant does not have an internet connection from home and therefore could not be helpful. Ignoring for a moment the first world problem here, the realization that not all your employees may have a stable, reliable internet is powerful. Believe it or not, it is absolutely a reality in the 21st century United States that not everyone has internet at home. This is even true in Silicon Valley, where I am located. Whether an employee has access to stable, reliable internet at home may be a personal decision, but it will most definitely have implications on your legal department’s success in the pandemic. Perhaps ensuring that employees have access to stable, reliable internet should be part of the modern onboarding process.
Three, your company and members of your legal department are more likely to fare better in crises if you plan for disasters and do tabletop exercises. Practice really does make perfect. It turns out that if you went through an exercise of thinking of what could possibly go wrong and ways to address that, in addition to writing the robust force majeure provisions in your contract, your company will be in a much better position today.
As we enter the reconstruction efforts, modern general counsels are shifting their attention from the basics to what makes long-term success for a company and legal department. Two efforts stand out — culture and sustainability. It turns out that the focus on creating a culture where employees can thrive and the company can do the right things for its employees, customers, and the world positions the company for long-term success.
That’s why Sharon Zezima and Kelly M. Slavitt, two well-known and highly regarded general counsels, emphasize the importance of culture and sustainability. This is where general counsel and in-house lawyers can lead, build long-term value, and engage the boards. That is where they can truly be impactful — in the short term, in an unprecedented emergency, and in the long normal, once the “new normal” kicks into gear.
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. She founded the Women Serve on Boards movement that advocates for women to participate on corporate boards of Fortune 500 companies. She authored Get on Board: Earning Your Ticket to a Corporate Board Seat and Fundamentals of Smart Contract Security. You can follow Olga on Twitter @olgavmack.
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