Crisis Management for Legal: COVID-19

Crisis Management for Legal: COVID-19

26th March 2020

Crisis Management for Legal: COVID-19

By Sarvarth Misra, co-founder, and CEO at ContractPodAi 

COVID-19 (coronavirus) was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on March 11, 2020. What started in Wuhan, China as a health-care concern suddenly became a full public health emergency - on a massive scale. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and departments of health around the world have scrambled in co-operation with the many governments affected. Crisis management plans and crisis management teams have been put into play to curb the pandemic. Of course, all of this has impacted government institutions, and private and public companies alike.

Impacting Legal

That means that legal teams across any and all organizations are affected. As the crisis hits many cities and regions, school and government shutdowns are becoming the norm. Municipalities, meanwhile, are asking companies to allow non-essential (physical presence) employees to work-from-home (WFH). Work documents and contracts needed by your team has to be digitally available anytime.

Read our latest whitepaper, Contract Management Crisis Preparedness for GCs to discover how your legal team can deal with a situation such as this. 

Given the white-collar nature of legal teams, WFH is a good and viable option. In fact, many companies embraced this as an early-crisis response to the situation. Still, one of the questions about crisis management for legal teams is whether all teams have been equally prepared for this challenge.

Crisis Management for Legal: Preparedness

A part of organizational risk management - in a situation like this - is to make sure that your team can, at first, stay safe, themselves. Secondly, you must assist clients with their day-to-day business challenges. Most legal teams members are equipped with laptops, mobile phones, and a place where they can work remotely (home and coffee shop, etc.). But when it comes to legal issues, can the entire team access all of your contracts?

This question is often asked tongue-in-cheek. After all, ContractPodAi recently published research showing several sobering realities. Among large- and enterprise-sized organizations, 62 percent are still using manual methods to process, manage, and store their contracts. Given that there is upwards of 40,000 active contracts at any given organization, this is a rather Herculean task. More distressing still is the complacency of many of them. More than 48 percent have not evaluated a contract lifecycle management (CLM) option in over four years.

From a contract perspective, not only are most companies ill-equipped for managing a crisis of this magnitude, but they have not even bothered to look into it. Definitely not a picture of 'preparedness.'

Why the Concern?

If it isn't already evident, when your legal team is WFH, they cannot just walk down the hall to retrieve a contract from the filing cabinet and review the terms and conditions. That high-profile case, associated with the contract from a few years back - was it a class action suit, with points on mass torts, or was it a set of smaller product recalls? And were there internal investigations or were there government investigations into the issue?

If it was associated with a contract, then all of this information should be in one single place. And that place cannot be a physical one, with limited access. After all, if your entire staff is WFH, then a contract at the office, in Bernard's desk - second drawer down on the right - simply won't help anyone right now!

Not About Crisis Management Lawyers

Building a robust corporate legal team isn't about having attorneys who are all experts at crisis communications. In the long-term, perhaps this is a good idea but probably only necessary for certain industries.

Rather, your legal team needs to find itself in the digital age. This means that it has to digitally transform. Work, documents, contracts, and detailed information required by your team has to be digitally available, anywhere and anytime. Specifically, in a crisis like the current COVID-19 pandemic, teams have to work remotely. Yet, they have to be just as effective doing it as they are working at the office alongside their colleagues. It means assets and information have to be available, easily findable, and useable.

Given that contracts are the lifeblood of a modern organization, cloud-based CLM systems are not a luxury. They are a necessity, especially in times like this.

How Can a CLM help?

First of all, a CLM is your contracts system of record. It contains all of the contracts involving your organization. It also includes all records associated with those contracts. Best of all, these details and information are readily available to the attorney. So despite having to work remotely, your attorneys have the information that they need to make intelligent and informed decisions. They also have the information that they need to contain any further risks arising from the crisis and its impact on business partners.

Secondly, challenging times always come with an element of introspection, particularly at the corporate level. No doubt, the senior leadership team (SLT) will want contract analyses run. They will want to know what the impact and penalties might be for a failure to deliver certain products. Are there force majeure clauses in the contracts, limiting liabilities and indemnities? What are your obligations in challenging times? Do the various contracts contain penalty clauses for failure to deliver, and if so, what are they? Further, how many contracts have certain liabilities associated with them?

All of this would simply not be possible to answer in the old state of paper-based contracts - stored in row upon row of filing cabinets. It would still be challenging even if the contracts were available digitally but spread out across the network, on various drives around the world.

Upside of Crises

62% are still using manual methods to process, manage and store their contracts.Let's face it, nobody wants to think of an upside to a crisis. But in a recent post, "Contingency Planning for COVID-19 for Your Legal Team,' we discussed a company challenged with keeping up with new business during hours of despair. That company is a cleaning services corporation. In their case, without a CLM, they could not keep up with the new orders and contracts that they received for new business.

Their situation called for a CLM solution that could be implemented as quickly as possible to capture and automate the volume of new contracts coming into the organization.

Quick-Deploy CLM

In the midst of a crisis, the last thing anyone thinks about is bringing in a new system. But if your organization is like the 62 percent that are managing contracts manually, then you definitely need a CLM. For most vendors, though, this is a major problem, as it can take them six to 24 months to get a system fully operational.

In this regard, ContractPodAi offers a quick-deploy CLM. It can be implemented with core functionality -  in an out-of-the-box configuration - in a matter of two to five weeks. This means going from having a manual solution to getting your legal team onboarded digitally, in record time.

As this pandemic is expected to last three to five more months, a quick-deploy CLM may be an excellent option for you. It will help maximize the productivity of your legal team during this prolonged WFH phase. If you want to learn more about it, do not hesitate to contact us.

General Counsel's Handbook

Also, for further information on crisis management for legal departments, read our latest whitepaper, "Contract Management Crisis Preparedness For GC."  It is a free publication, with many useful tips for you and your legal team.

AUTHOR:

Sarvarth MisraSarvarth Misra
Co-founder and CEO
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