GCs and The Pandemic, One Year On

By Richard Mabey, CEO, Juro

Mark the one year anniversary of the COVID pandemic by reading these reflections from leading GCs on a year that challenged legal like never before.

Download the full eBook – GCs and the pandemic: how legal responded

Yesterday marked one year since the UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, announced a nationwide lockdown to try to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. Italy had locked down the week before, and the US would follow shortly after.

The year that followed changed all of our lives, but at Juro we wanted to know how it had affected General Counsels at those companies most affected by the crisis.

Companies like Deliveroo, scrambling to feed the nation; Zoopla, wondering how to keep the property market moving in lockdown; Trainline, facing the overnight cancellation of everyone’s journeys – including those currently abroad; Hopin, growing like crazy when virtual events became the rule rather than the exception.

How did GCs react in those uncertain early hours and days, balancing business continuity with commercial viability? How did the GC’s role change as the pandemic wore on? What were leadership’s key concerns, how did legal advise, which new workstreams did they take on, and what technology did they use to adapt to their new reality? How do lawyers see their role in preparing their companies for the bounceback?

Well, we asked them. Our latest eBook collects a series of interviews with reflections on this period in history from the legal leaders at businesses upon which COVID had a huge impact. Inside you’ll find:

  • Deliveroo GC, Chantelle Zemba: on keeping riders safe and feeding the nation
  • Stripe GC, Trish Walsh: on connecting distressed businesses with financial resources
  • Zoopla GC, Amelia Guilfoyle: on what to do when boilerplate isn’t boilerplate at all
  • Brewdog GC, Richard Street: on what happens when every bar closes overnight
  • Secret Escapes GC, James Russell-Jones: on getting customers home safely
  • Hopin CLO, Irene Liu: on legal’s role in creating a double-unicorn for virtual events
  • Revolut GC, Tom Hambrett: on how to diversify from forex when travel stops
  • Trainline GC, Neil Murrin: on playing whack-a-mole with travel restrictions

… plus a foreword from Wilson Sonsini’s London Managing Partner, Daniel Glazer, reflecting on an extraordinary year, the impact of which will surely linger long into the future.

Download the full eBook – GCs and the pandemic: how legal responded

Three themes stood out to me across all the stories in our eBook, around the evolving nature of a GC’s role, and I explore them inside too:   

1. The GC as business partner

Now, more than ever, GCs have stepped up and delivered beyond ‘business as usual’ tasks. The pandemic seemed to act like a compounding factor in their day-to-day; when the crisis kept growing, GCs just kept going above and beyond to deliver expert advice and keep the business running.

2. The GC as crisis manager

The trusted General Counsel is always one of the first people that colleagues turn to in a crisis. So it’s unsurprising that lawyers were at the heart of pandemic response – they lend not just legal expertise but commercial judgement to unexpected challenges and can solve problems under pressure. Although it’s a skill we hope lawyers can rest for a while post-COVID, it certainly adds an extra layer of value to the work lawyers do supporting their businesses.

3. The GC as creative thinker

Perhaps the biggest realization during this pandemic is the lawyer’s capacity for creativity. Whether it’s creating a new real-time resource to monitor travel restrictions country by country, or supporting the business as it pivots to produce hand sanitizer, lawyers have been confronted with questions that simply have never been asked before – and answered them quickly and intelligently.

Digital-first GCs

Lawyers moved seamlessly to tech platforms too. None complained about remote working – indeed, our survey of tech GCs in January 2020 found that the majority want to stay at least half-remote, even once it’s safe to return to offices.

They also adopted new technology at scale – whether that was project management, task tracking, or contract automation. At Juro we saw some customers’ contract volumes increase by 300 per cent from one month to the next, as they migrated key commercial relationships online and pushed BAU processes like non-disclosure agreements down to other teams. When all this is over – or, at least, over to a degree we can live with – it’s exciting to think how post-pandemic lawyers will carry these new skills and experiences with them.

Lawyers who can handle real-time cross-border regulatory updates whilst juggling commercial growth, or feeding health workers at scale, or navigating regulatory frameworks for hand sanitizer overnight, can probably handle just about anything 2021 can throw at them.

Check out the eBook in full and let us know what you think. As always, we’re grateful to our stellar cast of GC contributors for sharing their time and their insights with us.

Download the full eBook – GCs and the pandemic: how legal responded

[ Artificial Lawyer is proud to bring you this sponsored thought leadership article. ]