The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted businesses worldwide, and no one knows what the ultimate impacts will be. Many companies have business continuity plans in place, but CLOs and GCs need to ensure that legal doesn’t become the weak link.
The time to invest in planning for legal continuity is now, to ensure that institutional knowledge is preserved in case one or more staff members are unavailable.
The concept of business continuity in response to potential risks, e.g. natural disasters, is well known. Taking steps such as backing up critical business data and establishing alternate sites for conducting business operations can mitigate the impact of natural disasters and other major disruptions to business.
Similarly, the goal of legal continuity is to mitigate the risk of unexpected events, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic.
The primary concern during a pandemic is availability of legal employees. The challenge is staff who may be unable to fulfill their duties because of illness, the need to care for sick family members, or general reductions in productivity.
Legal is business critical, and it needs to function effectively, even under difficult – and even unprecedented – circumstances.
LawGeex has compiled a Legal Continuity Checklist to provide guidance on establishing a legal continuity plan. The Checklist identifies the essential steps for helping to ensure that your legal team is prepared for potential disruptions, and is based on standard business continuity planning processes.
Backing up Legal Policies
According to the legal departments we polled during a recent webinar, ‘backing up legal policies’ is the most important element of legal continuity.
Backing up policies ensures that institutional legal knowledge is never lost. It includes compiling a “playbook” to document policies, operating procedures, contract review guidelines, and escalation scenarios for legal documents.
Consider that backing up legal policies is just as important as backing up documents, especially policies governing contract review guidelines. Contracts are business critical, and during business disruptions and potential loss of critical staff, it’s critical to maintain the flow of contracts and turnarounds.
Backing Up Your Company’s Guidelines
The need to back up contract review guidelines is not the same across companies, and it is important to understand its importance for your company.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Is pre-signature contract review and redlining by the legal team critical for your organization to conduct operations and close deals?
- Are your contract review guidelines documented in a central location and updated regularly?
- Are these policies not understood and applied consistently by all legal staff?
- If any one of your legal staff falls ill or is otherwise incapacitated, will there be any disruption to contract turnaround time?
- If any one of your legal staff falls ill or is incapacitated, will you have increased risk due to loss of institutional knowledge?
You can use the answers to determine your company’s need to backup your guidelines. If your answer to any of these questions is “yes,” you should consider a robust effort to back up your review guidelines.
The process of compiling and writing up manual review guidelines documentation is typically assigned to one individual or taskforce. In contrast, dynamic playbooks deployment relies on an automated system, which often takes advantage of previous contracts to derive policies. It is better to rely on actual empirical results rather than delaying the process with time-consuming debates over what the guidelines should be.
The main challenge with business disruptions is that they’re unpredictable. It’s already too late for many companies to prepare for the COVID-19 pandemic, but you can take active steps now to prepare for the next disruption.
If you wait for someone to get sick, it’ll be too late, placing even more pressure on your remaining staff at the worst possible time.
LawGeex has blogged extensively on how companies are working to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on employees and business operations, including Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA): How Legal Teams Can Mitigate Risks, and also Six Ways To Ensure Employee Wellbeing During The Coronavirus Crisis. We encourage you to read our coverage and let us know your thoughts.
LawGeex is the creator of a leading contract review automation platform. We help companies enhance their disaster preparedness with our cloud-based contract review procedures backup solution. Find out more by contacting LawGeex.
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